PM tries to avert pay hikes

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is due to meet with Justice Ministry officials to discuss how to prevent judges from awarding themselves a massive pay hike which could derail the government’s economic policy. The premier will discuss a decision by a wage tribunal last week that court officials should be paid at the same rate as high-ranking civil servants. According to the tribunal, high-ranking judges should received the same pay as the head of the Hellenic Telecommunications and Post Commission (EETT), who currently earns almost 5,000 euros more than the judges each month. The ruling has to be rubber-stamped by higher courts but, if approved, could add millions of euros to public spending. The government is concerned but refrained from criticizing the ruling. However, in comments published yesterday, Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis said it was «totally unacceptable.» «Judges cannot be compared to the members of independent bodies who do not have permanent positions… and are hired because they have specialized skills and knowledge,» the minister said in an interview with the Proto Thema newspaper. Alogoskoufis said that if he had to, he would reduce the salary of the EETT president rather than grant the judges a pay rise. «It is not institutionally correct for them [judges] to set their own wages,» he said. As part of a revision of the Greek Constitution, the government wants to replace the wage tribunal with a constitutional court. Judges seem to be in favor of the creation of an independent body to examine wage issues. The president of the Council of State judges’ union, Constantinos Kousoulis, insisted yesterday that as part of a constitutional revision the government will not be able to tamper with the authority of the courts in settling wage disputes. He said the role of the courts has been cemented by two key articles of the constitution that are not open to review. «This matter cannot be dealt with by limiting how much protection courts provide for citizens, instead you have to stamp out the reasons for the problem,» said Kousoulis, adding that the answer lies in wage equality.

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