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Greek Lawmakers OK Job Cuts

vouli33With a slim majority of 153 votes in the 300-member Parliament, the coalition government of Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras and PASOK Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos, shortly after midnight on July 18 got approval to proceed with a plan that could lead to the firing of as many as 40,000 public workers over the next two years.
The agreement came after a night of horse-trading of amendments, including last-minute changes that included the withdrawal of an amendment that would have given the 2,656 former employees of the defunct state broadcaster ERT a larger compensation package than other state company workers.
Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis introduced several changes including the exemption from a mobility scheme for civil servants of municipal police officers employed in municipalities with fewer than 5,000 residents.
The new legislation will put 12,500 public-sector staff, mostly teachers and municipal workers, in a program that subjects them to involuntary transfers and possible dismissals. It will also pave the way for 15,000 layoffs by the end of next year.
City halls across the country have been closed this week, with uncollected rubbish piling up on the streets, and unions held a general strike on July 16 against the proposed cuts that failed to move the government to relent.
“I fully understand the hardship the Greek people are going through during the great crisis,” Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said during the debate. “But I am fully convinced that the path we have chosen is correct.”
Some 3,000 people protested outside Parliament in central Athens ahead of the vote, chanting anti-austerity slogans in a third straight day of protests but it seemed evident that Greeks have given up trying to stop austerity.
But he hinted that the Troika has given up on Greece going after tax evaders. Schaeuble said he understood the Greek people’s anger. “You won’t get the yacht owners and the super-rich because they don’t have their place of residence in Greece anymore. That’s always the case. World history is never totally fair. Of course that annoys me,” he said.
“I can understand the people in Greece,” Schaeuble said, but added reforms were the only way to get the Greek economy back on track.
That was all so much politics to people such as 47-year-old Maria Denida who joined other women who traveled from the northern city of Thessaloniki to protest outside Parliament, together with many of the country’s mayors.
“I’ve been a school guard for 13 years and suddenly we find out we have no job. They say we’ll be suspended. But that means we’ll be fired,” Denida told the Associated Press, her voice cracking with emotion.
“All of us have kids, unemployed people at home, and bills we can’t pay. We were getting 780 euros ($1,000) a month. And if we lose that, we’re finished.”

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