Tsipras Says ‘No’ To Mass Sackings Of Civil Servants

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Labour Ministry civil servants marching in Athens in February
Labour Ministry civil servants marching in Athens in February

LEFTIST SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras addressed a crowd of party supporters in Sparti, in the Peloponnese, on Thursday night.

Tsipras said that his party would not fire any civil servants if it comes to power and would conduct its own evaluation of public sector employees, ending the cooperation that Greece has embarked on with the European Commission’s Task Force.

He visited the National School of Public Administration on Thursday, where he told his audience that he would not proceed with the programme of public sector sackings that the previous government agreed with Greece’s creditors.

Athens has agreed to reduce the number of civil servants it employs by 150,000 by 2015. Some of this would come from bureaucrats retiring.

Tsipras said: ‘Using the (EU-IMF) memorandum as their playbook, New Democracy wants to fire 150,000 civil servants by 2015 but will not address the public sector being bureaucratic and dysfunctional.

‘Firings would limit its basic operations.’

The SYRIZA leader added that the current process of creating an evaluation process for civil servants with the help of French experts brought to Greece by the EU Task Force would be abandoned.

‘We do not need any task force to tell us what to do,’ he said.

‘The chronic weakness of our public administration is mainly due to the plundering of the public sector by governments that imposed party politics and patron-client relations,’ he added, stressing that there had been a lack of strategic planning.

The SYRIZA leader also pledged to ban all consultants from the public sector, accusing previous ministers of hiring “armies of advisers and bypassing the public administration’s hierarchy.’

Tsipras said he would trust civil servants regardless of their political beliefs.

‘There is potential for a public sector that will be based on meritocracy and its trained staff,’ he said.

Exit polls from the May 6th elections indicated that SYRIZA was the most popular party among civil servants.

As world markets wait the outcome of the second Greek elections, scheduled to take place on June 17, which could determine Greece’s fate within the euro, strike action has been threatened which could disrupt the process.

The POE-OTA union which represents Greek municipal workers, has called for strike action.

Themis Balassopoulos, leader of the POE-OTA, said: ‘The union decided Thursday to hold a two-day strike on June 16-17.’

Municipal workers are involved in setting up and cleaning voting centres for elections and other matters which ensure elections are held.

The union is striking for higher electoral pay and Balassopoulos said ‘municipal employees will refuse to do any election-related work until’ the strike.

Balassopoulos said municipal employees were paid 60 euros for their work in the May election.

He stated the unions’ case, saying: ‘We asked for dignified pay. If the country has no money, it can’t just be for us while Interior Ministry employees get 1,800 euros – that’s three months’ salary for a municipal garbage collector. It’s a provocation.’

An anonymous government official has stated that all necessary action will be taken to ensure the elections go ahead.

A delay in the elections could have serious implications for Greece’s cash flow problems.

Greek coffers are running dry and the caretaker government has warned it ‘might have to temporarily stop paying for salaries and pensions, along with imports of fuel, food and pharmaceuticals’ by July.

Meanwhile the Greek crisis is stirring up the British trade unions.

An economic spectre is haunting Britain and the path to austerity will propel it into an economic crisis on a par with Spain and Greece, warned Tony Burke, assistant general secretary of Britain’s largest union Unite.

Addressing trade unionists from across Europe at a major EU conference on the economy in Manchester last Thursday 3rd May, Burke said: ‘Europe is the spectre now haunting Britain.

‘A deep crisis has gripped the eurozone and is affecting the UK. Britain’s Con-Dem government has made a mess of managing the economy.

‘We are already in a double dip recession, and David Cameron has us sitting on the subs bench of Europe rather than being on the pitch.

‘In Greece, real wages have fallen by over 25 per cent and in Spain, where the debt crisis has taken hold, you have nearly one in four out of work and over 50 per cent of young people are without a job.

‘These are the depths of the crisis that austerity has brought – that have yet to reach Britain.

‘But that is only because many of the countries of Europe are further down the road which Cameron and Osborne are already taking us – the road of austerity and cuts, backed up by attacks on workers’ rights.’

Speaking at the conference, Sorting out the crisis: What’s the EU got to do with it?, in Manchester he went on to say that: ‘The damage and anger the austerity agenda is fuelling could even call into question the very future of the EU itself.

‘What has happened to working people in the last few years is deeply shocking.

‘Technocrats are dismantling workers rights, the social model is under attack, democracy itself is being sacrificed to the bankers, with elected governments – whatever one thinks of them – sacked in Italy and Greece.’

Calling for an alternative vision he urged a rejection of banker imposed austerity and for ‘faith to be put in people, not elites’.

He went on to add: ‘State-owned banks should be investing and not hoarding cash.

‘Manufacturing needs to be nurtured and the rich made to pay their fair share. The trade union movement needs to take the lead in Europe and fight back against the dismantling of social Europe.’

Concluding he said: ‘We need to rebuild Europe based on its traditions of growth, on good jobs, on principles of solidarity and fairness and not the race to the bottom.

‘Together, united, out of this crisis we can create a new Europe based on solidarity, equality and justice.’