Door closes on wage courts

Wage tribunals will be scrapped and legislation will be changed so that courts can no longer have an impact on public finances by setting wages, the government decided yesterday. The measures were discussed by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and Justice Minister Anastassis Papaligouras during a meeting held in the wake of a potentially damaging ruling by a wage tribunal last week. «This is the government’s expressed and well-documented proposal,» said Papaligouras of the ruling Conservatives’ intention to abolish wage tribunals during an imminent revision of the constitution. The nine-member panel of judges, academics and lawyers on the tribunal ruled that judges should receive much higher wages, similar to those paid to high-ranking civil servants. If implemented, the rule threatens to derail the government’s economic policy. «I have faith that all those affected will realize that excessive economic demands cannot be made in a period that is especially difficult for the country,» said Papaligouras. The government is due to submit to Parliament today its national budget for next year. The plan forecasts the public deficit to drop to 2.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Karamanlis does not want to see his administration’s efforts to reduce the deficit to below the eurozone ceiling of 3 percent of GDP being damaged by sudden demands for wage hikes by judges, especially after turning down loud calls by teachers for higher salaries. However, the prime minister was boosted yesterday by the stance of Greece’s highest-ranking judge, Romylos Kedikoglou, the president of the Supreme Court who said he would spurn any increase in his pay. «I am not contesting, nor will I contest a readjustment of my salary,» said Kedikoglou. «I have waived my rights as I have not taken any legal action, nor do I intend to.» Kedikoglou also played down claims that the prospective wage increases were excessive. He said that under the tribunal’s ruling, judges would be able to claim a pay rise of 15-25 percent. The Supreme Court said this would still mean that some high-ranking judges would only claim a monthly after-tax wage of 1,150 euros.

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