Gov’t on the offensive over civil service cuts

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his aides are reportedly planning an aggressive campaign to convince the public of the need for an overhaul of the civil service as unionists representing teachers slated to join a so-called mobility scheme heralded strike action next month.

The mobility scheme, which foresees the reduction of wages ahead of transfer or dismissal for thousands of civil servants, reportedly dominated talks on Monday between Samaras and his close aides at the Maximos Mansion. The same issue will be high on the agenda at a scheduled meeting this morning between the premier and key cabinet members including Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Education Minister Constantinos Arvanitopoulos, Interior Minister Yiannis Michelakis and Health Minister Adonis Georgiadis.

According to sources, it was decided on Monday that a PR drive would focus on two things – convincing Greeks that the public sector is in dire need of an overhaul, irrespective of demands for reform by the country’s troika of international lenders, and a head-on attack on the main left-wing opposition SYRIZA party. In their campaign government officials will likely highlight several anomalies in the public sector to back their argument, such as the case of the secondary school on the island of Aghios Efstratios, in the northern Aegean, where 19 teachers are reportedly employed to instruct 13 pupils. By opposing a civil service overhaul, the government is expected to argue, SYRIZA is defending such anomalies.

It remains unclear, however, how the government will tackle labor unions which are expected to vehemently oppose the measures. The head of the Federation of Secondary School Teachers (OLME), Themis Kotsyfakis, told Kathimerini that teachers would go ahead with strike action next month though he did not confirm what form this would take. “It is the government that will close schools with so many cutbacks,” Kotsyfakis said.