NEWS

Bloated wages for chop

Under pressure to continue with its public spending cuts, the government is likely to target state-run companies, such as those responsible for the public transport system, with the aim of slashing wage bills, sources told Kathimerini. The government presented a somewhat confused platform this week on the issue of sackings in the public sector, not clearly stating whether employees of public firms and utilities are likely to lose their jobs as part of cutbacks. However, it seems more likely that the government will aim to first rein in the wages of some public servants, particularly those who have benefited from collective contracts and a series of fringe agreements that have inflated their salaries far beyond the basic wage packet. According to sources, Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou has instructed the relevant ministers that public firms have to stop hemorrhaging money. This is likely to result in the Transport Ministry putting forward a plan next month to overhaul the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) and other public transport bodies. In 2009, OSE and the various companies overseen by the Athens Urban Transport Organization (OASA), including the buses, metro and electric railway, spent 800 million euros on wages but their combined inflows were no more than 350 million euros. Between 2006 and 2009, OASA’s losses increased from 2.2 billion to 3.6 billion. During the same period, the average salaries of public transport workers increased by 22 percent. The firm that runs the tram, which started operating in 2004, spends 30 million euros a year to pay its staff but only makes 5 million euros from selling tickets. Meanwhile, OSE owes close to 10 billion euros. The wages of some employees at public companies are inflated by overtime, bonuses for their participation on committees, extraordinary payments and supplementary pay. At OSE, for instance, the average wage not including the added extras is just over 32,000 euros but once all the fringe benefits have been added, it goes up to more than 52,000 euros. An example of how these benefits are applied is that metro train drivers work eight hours a day but four of those hours are treated as overtime, meaning that their average monthly wage is more than 6,000 euros.