The mayors of five major Greek cities – Athens, Thessaloniki, Patra, Volos and Ioannena – joined forces in an open letter addressed to the government on Monday in which they demand a more active role in the planning of structural reforms for the civil service, and local authorities in particular, as well as criticizing municipal workers’ unions.
Giorgos Kaminis, Yiannis Boutaris, Yiannis Dimaras, Panos Skotiniotis and Filippos Filios signed a joint letter signalling their intention to “contribute with comprehensive proposals aimed at tackling the most critical problems in our cities.”
The letter came in response to a controversial government decision to place hundreds of local authority workers in a mobilization scheme that will see them receiving part of their usual pay for several months before an assessment of their qualifications determines whether they will be transferred to a different service or sacked. Under pressure from international lenders to streamline the bloated state, the coalition government has also decided to disband the municipal police force and transfer officers to the main law enforcement body.
Mayors around the country have slammed the decision, saying they were not consulted and questioning the long-term efficacy of the scheme.
In their letter on Monday, the five mayors said that they are planning to conduct their own studies into alternative forms of funding for local authorities and for improving services.
“Local government is being treated like a beggar, like the poor relative of central government, which without forethought and forewarning, without a plan in mind, usurps our authority, slashes funding and fires workers. The state is openly challenging local government as an institution of local state authority,” the mayors said.
The letter goes on to denounce the actions of local workers’ unions (OTA), saying that they “have often been a part of relationships of political patronage, clientelism and party interests. One of the legacies of these relationships is an extreme form of unionism which employs violence and bullying, and which is encouraged by a section of the leadership that is also trying to propagate inertia in order to safeguard the petty interests of a minority over the majority of workers and society in general.”