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Our View: Retirement deal for teachers will lead to wider public sector demand

Teachers' representatives

WHILE economic indicators for the year are positive, this does not justify the profligacy championed by President Anastasiades in the last year. Without the brakes applied by the troika, he has been spending the taxpayer’s money with carefree abandon, without the slightest thought about the consequences. The public payroll is back on an upward path, €7 billion was squandered on closing down the co-ops, while a solidarity fund will be set up to compensate the so-called victims of the bailout.

His latest example of state generosity was offered as a bribe to teachers so they would not carry out their strike threat. Teachers, according to the plan would be entitled to take early retirement without any reduction in the tax-free retirement bonus they receive. Until now, the practice was for teachers retiring before reaching retirement age (62 to for primary and 65 for secondary teachers) to receive a reduced retirement bonus. The government has now offered the teachers the right to retire at 58 (primary) and 60 (secondary) with a full retirement bonus.

This was a demand made by teaching unions in November 2017, presumably as part of their ongoing efforts to protect public education, and was brought up by the government last week as one of the concessions it would make to avoid a strike at schools. Had the president and his advisers thought of the consequences of this offer? How long would it be, before the other public sector unions demand equal treatment for their members? And on what rational grounds would the government reject such a demand? There are none, it will just have to pay a full bonus to all public employees opting for early retirement.

This will be yet another privilege for the pampered public employees, who should not even be receiving a retirement bonus, given the over-generous state pensions they receive. These are people that receive monthly pensions of about €3,000, when there are people that after 40 years of work receive €500. What is the justification of the retirement bonus, towards which public employees contribute as much as they contribute towards their pensions – nothing.

And now teachers can receive it in full, tax-free, four or five years before retirement age. They only had to threaten a strike for the government to offer new privileges to them. One thing is for sure, this costly new privilege will now have to be extended to all public employees who will demand equal treatment. This is all part of President Anastasiades’ rationalisation drive.

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