In a rare demonstration, Greek judges, prosecutors and court workers gathered on Sept. 5 at the country’s Supreme Court to oppose pending reductions in their wages. Other professions who get so-called “special salaries,” including police officers, firefighters, Coast Guard officers and professors, earlier vented their anger at the wage reductions, while the government has also raised taxes and slashed pensions.
The cuts in the special salaries are coming as part of $14.6 billion in new cuts under a plan formulated by the uneasy coalition government led by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who said he is following the orders of international lenders who are withholding continued lifeline loans until he does.
Organizers of the protest threatened to cut operating hours at the country’s severely backlogged courts if salaries are slashed as part of the government’s new austerity measures for 2013-14. Greece’s courts, which work notoriously short hours and have long vacation breaks, are backed up for 10 years or more in some cases.
“Of course it’s not common to see judges protesting but we were obliged to gather today to express our opposition to the planned new cuts,” Vassiliki Thanou-Christofilou, head of the Association of Judges and Public Prosecutors, told the Associated Press as about 200 people – including senior judges – took part in the protest.
“The cuts are likely to be 20 percent or more, on top of previous reductions worth 38 percent of our salaries. So the pay levels will no longer safeguard the court officials’ ability to live in a dignified way,.” she said. Most Greek civil servants have seen similar pay cuts.
Police, Fire Service and Coast Guard associations are planning a protest in central Athens with officers in uniform on Sept. 6. Earlier this week, pharmacists and doctors stopped extending credit to the state EOPPY health fund, which insures nearly 90 percent of Greeks, who have been forced to pay doctors and pharmacists in cash even though the workers have money withheld from their checks for health insurance.