Offering a glimmer of hope to thousands of public sector contract workers seeking full-fledged civil servant status, top government officials yesterday agreed to a halfway solution on the matter which is open to several interpretations. After chairing a meeting with the ministers of the interior, labor and economy, Prime Minister Costas Simitis said the government was constitutionally bound not to go over the top with hirings. «Following a unanimous decision by all parliamentary parties, the Constitution… does not allow permanent civil servant status to be conferred (on contract workers),» he said. «The government cannot push through or accept provisions that contravene the Constitution.» It was decided to immediately confer full civil servant status on between 7-8,000 people on short-term contracts who have worked for at least 24 months in the civil sector between 1994 and 2000, and have since renewed their contracts – irrespective of the time that lapsed in between. For contract workers hired for specific projects, this will apply for between 1995 and 2000. Secondly, all contract workers who have won court cases seeking full-time status will be given it immediately. Furthermore, some 30,000 new, full-time civil service jobs will be made immediately available. Hirings will be made following exams, in which applicants with short-term contract experience will be given extra marks. But this is not expected to satisfy militant contract workers, many of whom would probably not do well enough in the exams as hiring standards have been considerably upgraded, with foreign languages, computer-literacy and high school-leaving certificate marks having been added to the requirements. Government sources noted as an example of this that, out of the 170 contract workers employed at highway toll booths – who recently went on strike seeking permanent civil servant status – fewer than 75 percent are considered to meet the formal hiring requirements. The government last week announced a series of measures reforming the civil service, including evaluation and accountability of employees.