Gov’t, troika in tug-of-war over layoffs

The insistence of Greece’s international creditors, the European Central Bank, European Commission and the IMF — known as the troika — on public sector layoffs is leading to a tug of war with the government, which is focusing on the speeding up of administrative reforms and a rationalization of personnel management.

The government considers that its proposal for a near freeze in new hires for three years and personnel transfers to cover shortages in other services and departments will be sufficient to provide relief to public finances without exacerbating social problems and placing additional burdens on the budget with more pensions and unemployment benefits.

So in response to the troika’s strong pressure for 150,000 layoffs in the broader public sector before the end of 2015, the government is counterproposing a strict rule of 1 new hiring for every 10 retirements, and transfers to other departments of personnel who are made redundant as a result of a broad program of privatizations and mergers of agencies. However, the troika considers the two are contradictory, because under the terms of the bailout program transfers are considered new hires.

The government estimates that the number of public servants will be reduced by 100,000 through retirements over the same period. The Administrative Reform Ministry has prepared a draft bill abolishing paid public sector committees and special secretariats and instituting assessment staff procedures.

“Assessment is an end in itself for us,” said a senior ministry source. Minister Antonis Manitakis has said indiscriminate layoffs without a thorough assessment process will create painful shortages in crucial services.

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