Pay incentives aim to get civil service working

In an attempt to repair the damage caused by the first PASOK government in the early 1980s, the Naational Economy Ministry proposes to radically overhaul the public sector pay scale by linking civil servants’ salaries to their education, performance and abilities. Speaking to Kathimerini, ministry sources attributed many of the ills currently plaguing Greece’s bloated, inefficient civil service on legislation passed by PASOK founder Andreas Papandreou. Under the 1984 law – still in effect – civil servants’ pay followed a preordained course which was no longer linked to their rank and degree of responsibility. As a result, senior employees handling important sectors of the civil service can find themselves earning less than their office cleaning staff, or the messengers who carry their files for them. According to a survey by the General Accounting Office, after 35 years of service the salary of civil servants whose education extends no further than primary school – or, at the most, junior high school – is 66 percent higher than their initial starting salary. University graduates with the same number of years in the service receive 58 percent more than their starting pay, which is just slightly higher than that of civil servants with less education. Under the proposed reforms, the starting salary of a university graduate would be 40 percent higher than that of someone who has gone no further than primary or junior high school. At the end of their career, university graduates’ salaries would be 125 percent higher than their starting salary, while the corresponding figure for primary or junior high school graduates would be only 44 percent higher. In addition to providing much stronger incentives for well-educated, skilled and productive employees, Economy Ministry planners – headed by Deputy Minister Giorgos Floridis – also intend to restore a hierarchical system to the civil service by rewarding employees in responsible positions. In this spirit, Floridis took teachers’ unions completely by surprise earlier this year by tripling the special bonus paid to headmasters. When the new measure comes into effect in July, headmasters will receive a 120,000-drachma bonus, higher than the 100,000-drachma bonus sought by union representatives. Ministry officials will get to work this week on ways of funding what is effectively the adoption of private sector principles to the overstaffed civil service. For the time being, one of their biggest headaches is a 60,000-drachma bonus handed out last summer to civil servants with the lowest level of education – a handout that completely contradicts the spirit of the proposed reforms. Ministry planners are also looking into the time frame required to implement such a sweeping overhaul of the system, while it remains to be seen how the powerful civil servants’ union (ADEDY) will respond to the proposals.

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