Apprentices fight on for jobs

Hundreds of young Greeks who had been hired on short-term contracts to gain work experience in the public sector but whose positions were scrapped late last year by the government have returned to work to see out the remainder of their contracts following a recent court decision, Kathimerini understands. In one of its first major decisions last October, PASOK put an end to the European Union-funded apprenticeship programs, known by the French term «Stage,» which have given more than 20,000 young people temporary jobs in the public sector and at local government level usually for less than 500 euros a month. The Stage system was introduced in the mid-1990s but was at the center of controversy during last October’s election campaign when PASOK accused the then New Democracy government of using the scheme to hand out internships in return for votes. Unsurprisingly, the decision to do away with the apprenticeships met with opposition from participants in the scheme, many of whom mounted individual legal battles to retain their places. However, the fact that Greece’s Supreme Court and the European Court of Justice had previously ruled the government is not obliged to offer them a permanent position provides little hope of a legal victory. Nevertheless, a first instance court in Athens recently gave the former apprentices a glimmer of hope as it ruled that an employee of the IKA social security fund who lost her job in the recent shake-up should be allowed to go back to work until there is a final judicial ruling on the matter. As a result, hundreds of workers have returned to the positions they were forced to abandon a few months ago. But they will only be allowed to see out the remainder of their contracts. «We didn’t get rid of anyone but their contracts run out in August,» said Thanos Orfanos, the mayor of Alimos, which employees 10 apprentices. «It’s a shame because they work hard and are good at what they do.»

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