Contracts to become open-ended

A day after the Council of State ruled by the slimmest majority (5-4) that the government’s effort to allow public sector contract workers to be hired on a permanent basis was not unconstitutional, it was not clear yesterday how many people this would affect. In a pre-election promise, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis had spoken of an end «to the hostage situation of 250,000 people» but it is clear that a much smaller number will be hired. «Clearly, more people will be taken care of than not, but it is impossible for anyone to know how many these are,» Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos told Skai Radio yesterday. He is planning to quickly amend the presidential decree to bring it in line with comments made by the Council of State in its 36-page ruling before he sends it to President Costis Stephanopoulos for signing. The confusion over how many people are eligible for permanent status is because the presidential decree sets out specific criteria, such as a two-year minimum time of employment and without a break of more than three months between contracts. For people with disabilities, they need only have worked for a total of 18 months in the public sector on a contract basis. Whereas Pavlopoulos said the majority of such workers would be employed permanently, the president of the Panhellenic Federation of Contract Employees, T. Kollias, claimed that 85-90 percent of such employees would not benefit. The decree was approved after six sessions of the highest administrative court, indicating the complexity of the issue, seeing as the constitution sets strict limits for public sector hirings. The opposition PASOK party (which had not hired the contract workers permanently while in power) criticized the decrees as hiring too few people.