Strike action in public sector over government wage policy

In May 2007, the public sector came out on strike in opposition to the government’s incomes policy. A further reason for the protest action was the government’s failure – according to the Confederation of Public Servants (ADEDY) – to meet a range of pre-election commitments, such as new pay scales for public servants. ADEDY also expressed concern over plans to reform the social insurance system, while noting the recent controversy over the handling of insurance funds.

On 15 May 2007, the Confederation of Public Servants (Ανώτατη Διοίκηση Ενώσεων Δημοσίων Υπαλλήλων, ADEDY) held a 24-hour strike throughout the public sector in opposition to the incomes policy being pursued by the government. ADEDY has taken the government to task for failing to meet its pre-election commitments to public servants, particularly with regard to the issue of a new pay scale and the inclusion of some categories of public servants in ‘arduous and unhealthy’ occupations for insurance purposes (GR0411106F). The latter provision would mean more favourable terms of social insurance cover for those job categories.

At the same time, ADEDY, as the country’s largest trade union organisation for public servants, has taken a position on the revision of the Constitution proposed by the government majority (GR0701069I, GR0702049I). ADEDY notes the government plans to revise Article 16 on privatisation of higher education, Article 24 on the framework for protection of the natural environment and Article 103 on permanent status for public servants. The confederation believes that, if these plans are successful, this will lead to fewer basic social rights and a worsening of the position of workers.

Strike demands

Civil servants, staff of municipalities and prefectures, employees in social insurance organisations and teachers at all levels took part in the industrial action initiated by ADEDY. The public hospitals had to function with emergency staff since doctors and hospital workers also participated in the strike.

ADEDY’s strike demands included the following:

  • a new pay scale with a minimum basic monthly salary of €1,250;
  • immediate payment of the agreed €176 allowance. It should be noted that this allowance is granted only to certain categories of public servants, but those who have not received it have already initiated legal proceedings (GR0611019I, GR0611039I). Where decisions have been taken in such cases, they have generally been in favour of the workers’ side, and have included a demand for immediate payment of the allowance;
  • immediate inclusion of certain categories of public servants under the status of arduous and unhealthy occupations;
  • the establishment of a single permanent employment relationship in the public sector;
  • improved healthcare for public servants;
  • funding and staffing of public services, and social services in particular;
  • implementation of health and safety legislation in the public sector.

Incomes policy

In effect, the public sector strike was its response to the circular sent by the Ministry of Economy and Finance (Υπουργείο Οικονομίας και Οικονομικών) to public servants on the 2007 annual incomes policy. The circular, which implements the government’s decisions regarding incomes policy for public servants, set this year’s pay increase at 3.5% of public servants’ basic pay. This translates into monthly increases of between €22 and €53, depending on public servants’ years of service and educational level.

The ADEDY executive committee noted that this year workers in the public sector are once again facing a government policy where a 3.5% increase actually means an increase of less than 2%. This is due to the fact that the 3.5% increase is not applied to total earnings, which comprise basic pay plus various benefits such as family allowances, but only to basic pay. ADEDY contends that, for the third consecutive year, the increase granted to public servants is thus even lower than the official inflation forecast, which is expected to be around 3% in 2007, based on the budget and the stability programme submitted to the European Commission.

Uncertainty over social insurance system

ADEDY also referred to public servants’ social security rights, which have been thrown into question by the government’s intention to reform the social insurance system. At the same time – the confederation argues – the ‘plundering and thievery from the reserves of the insurance funds’ continues, referring to the recent revelations regarding doubtful yields and safeguards on investments made using the public servants’ supplementary insurance fund reserves. The latter episode has had a significant impact on the political climate in Greece in the recent period.

Stathis Tikos, Labour Institute of Greek General Confederation of Labour (INE-GSEE)

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