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Our view: Policy of sweeping things under the carpet going strong

Government seems to make a habit of ignoring a problem until it becomes so complicated there is no easy solution to it. The 4,000 public employees on open contracts (of indefinite duration, is the direct Greek translation) that have endured for years are a case in point. Successive governments have known for years that, according to EU law staff employed on contracts for longer than 30 months had to be made permanent, given the same rights in terms of pay increases, promotions, holidays as the so-called permanent employees.

They all ignored the matter. Despite the fact that the EU directive had been in place since 2003 the harmonisation of national law was incomplete and this suited governments as they did not have to take the decision of making contract workers permanent because this would increase the public payroll and cause a reaction from those hired as permanent staff; their promotion prospects would be adversely affected. The easy way out was to keep the existing regime and leave the next government to deal with the problem.

It appears that the government can no longer ignore the problem, which is grossly unfair to the open contract workers that do exactly the same work as permanent staff but enjoy none of the benefits such as holiday pay, annual pay increments, overtime pay for working holidays, and are not eligible for promotion no matter how well they perform. Some parties have now decided to address this injustice perpetrated by the state which has employees doing the same work on drastically different terms and conditions. If a private business was doing this the unions would have immediately reported the matter to the labour ministry.

There is another issue at stake. Making the open contract staff permanent is in effect allowing them into the public service through the back door rather than through proper hiring procedures. They will secure posts by unfair advantage, landing jobs that were never advertised and without having to undergo the recruitment process of sitting exams and being interviewed. The state is guilty of shabby behaviour in this respect.

Once the law is amended, as it will be eventually, the public sector will be lumbered with another 4,000 employees on full pay and benefits, increasing the public payroll by several more millions. Had there been any kind of planning, it would never have come to this but it appears that the policy of sweeping things under the carpet, in the hope they would disappear, was implemented in this case.


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