Mayors to strike over reforms

Mayors from around the country decided on Friday to close their municipalities for three days from Monday to protest the multi-bill of reforms drawn up by the government as part of its bailout commitments, which will see thousands of local authority staff moved to other positions or fired.

Mayors aired their views at a meeting of the Central Union of Municipalities of Greece (KEDE) at the Caravel Hotel in Athens as hundreds of local government workers protested outside and riot police stood guard at the entrance. Some of the participants proposed that the mayors should resign en masse to protest the bill’s provisions, which include the transfer of municipal police to the country’s main force, the dismissal of school janitors and much tighter central government controls over how local authorities spend their money.

This option was rejected, though, and mayors decided to shut down city and town halls from July 15 to 17. MPs are due to vote on the legislation on Wednesday.

The unease felt at the municipal level is reflected to some extent in the two governing parties, PASOK and New Democracy. A number of the parties’ 155 lawmakers have voiced concern over some of the articles in the bill, which run to more than 100. Two of the stumbling blocks are what exactly will happen to municipal officers and a provision giving officials and employees at the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund, which is overseeing the recapitalization of Greek banks, immunity from criminal and civil prosecution.

“Withdraw it or change it,” said PASOK MP Odysseas Kyriakopoulos, who is also the party’s spokesman.

The multi-bill passed through Parliament’s finance committee on Friday but is not due to be debated in the plenary until Tuesday. In the meantime, New Democracy and PASOK officials are trying to pacify MPs and keep any dissenting votes to a minimum. ND’s parliamentary group is due to meet at the party’s headquarters on Monday to discuss the legislation.

Speaking during a visit to Crete, PASOK leader and Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos admitted that the government had been forced to take a rushed decision to meet the troika’s demand that 12,500 public sector workers be placed in a mobility scheme this year and that 4,000 more be dismissed. “Many of the decisions are unjust,” he said. “We have delayed the interventions in the public sector for a year and we have lost our credibility internationally.”

Venizelos said that the troika insisted on the mobility scheme because “the Greek political system has fought to protect the public sector and is workers.”

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