Whip cracked over labor reserve

In an attempt to speed up the tortuous process of placing thousands of civil servants in a labor reserve scheme, the government said on Wednesday it would dock public sector workers? pensions if it finds they fulfilled the criteria to enter the process but failed to be inducted because they did not come forward.

Alternate Finance Minister Filippos Sachinidis issued a circular on Wednesday instructing all government departments that if the scheme is not carried out as planned, then those who were supposed to be removed from their positions and placed on 60 percent of their salary for 12 months will have their pensions docked.

The scheme applies mainly to civil servants that are close to retirement age as those put in the labor reserve are unlikely to be rehired after their year on the sidelines. In its first phase, some 30,000 public sector employees are due to take part in the process. The government is under pressure to reduce the number of bureaucrats by 150,000 by 2015.

The reserve program has been plagued by delays as a result of the PASOK?s government indecision and the poor response from the public sector, which was asked to provide information about employees that matched the criteria for becoming part of the labor pool.

New Democracy labor spokesman Nikos Nikolopoulos demanded that Sachinidis withdraw his circular, arguing that it was unfair for civil servants to be punished if their departments did not provide the information the government wanted.

?Mr Sachinidis?s efforts to transfer the responsibility of the [George] Papandreou government onto the shoulders of workers is inconceivable,? he said. ?How can an employee affect through his own actions his inclusion in the scheme when his service has a file containing all his professional details??

The government is also hoping to shed public sector jobs through the closing down or merging of public organizations.

Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos, who is overseeing the process, informed ministers on Wednesday that although the green light has been given for 66 bodies to close down, in 23 cases ministries have not taken the necessary steps to conclude the process.

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