NEWS

University rectors and mayors stall over cash

As the government scrambles to raise the cash to cover its pending obligations in the coming months, it remained unclear on Monday whether university rectors and local authorities would comply with a decree forcing them to hand over their reserves.

An attempt by Education Minister Aristides Baltas (photo) to convince rectors to transfer their reserves to a Bank of Greece account and help the central government pay its dues was met with resistance as the rectors insisted on a meeting with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to discuss the demand in detail.

The decree, issued last week, obliges all state organizations ranging from local authorities to universities to transfer their cash reserves to the government, noting that the money will earn a generous interest rate and can be returned to the organizations if necessary.

Baltas sought to win over the rectors during an emergency meeting on Monday by promising that funding set aside for research would be exempted from the transfer. But the academics appeared unmoved, insisting on an audience with the premier.

Meanwhile, the country’s secondary school teachers’ union (OLME) lashed out against the government’s attempt to take the reserves of municipalities and regional authorities. It accused the government of “grabbing money” and “instead of providing relief for the the working classes, it uses it to satisfy the needs of creditors.”

Regional governors indicated over the weekend, after talks with Tsipras, that they will go along with the decree as an “urgent and temporary” measure, noting that the premier reassured them a measure will soon go to Parliament to reverse the decree.

The country’s mayors have been divided over whether to follow suit. Following a long meeting on Monday, Greek mayors agreed not to transfer any cash reserves to the Bank of Greece until certain exemptions that they said Tsipras’s has agreed to have been voted through Parliament.

The decree obliging state bodies to make their cash reserves available to the central government was approved in Parliament by coalition MPs last week following a stormy session in the House.