Greece: Voluntary intermunicipal mobility scheme

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A voluntary 'intermunicipal mobility' scheme in Greece for employees was to start in February 2014 and end in April 2014. The scheme aimed to transfer 3,000 permanent local government employees to new posts. It took extra time to be fully completed and faced some opposition, but the target of 3,000 transfers was met.

Background

The voluntary 'intermunicipal mobility' of employees is linked with Greece's memorandum commitment under Law 4223/2013, which provided for the temporary layoff of 12,500 public sector employees in total.

Of this number, 3,500 were initially intended to be found new posts through the voluntary mobility scheme between local authorities (regional governments and municipalities). The scheme allows permanent local government employees to transfer to vacant or new posts in an equivalent sector or another local authority.

The scheme began in February 2014 and was due to be completed by 2 May 2014. However, it was subsequently extended. In the first phase, 961 permanent local government employees had entered the mobility scheme by May 2014. On 16 July 2014, a new legislative intervention (Law 4274/2014) set a new deadline for the implementation of the scheme from 15 July to 29 August 2014, later extended until 19 December 2014.

Eligibility for transfer

On the basis of the law, the aim of voluntary intermunicipal mobility is to streamline the allocation of local government staff, improve the services provided by local authorities and make the best use of employees. The scheme enables local government staff who are surplus to the needs of their original organisation to meet the needs of other local government organisations. To be eligible to receive staff, these 'host' organisations must be first-tier and second-tier local authorities, the country’s decentralised administrations, the Central Union of Municipalities of Greece (KEDE), the Union of Regions of Greece (ENPE) and Regional Unions of Municipalities (PEDs). The staff of the same organisations have the right to apply for a transfer.

How the scheme works

Implementation of the scheme, as provided for in Law 4274/2014, comprises the following four steps.

  1. Job vacancies notified: The host organisations upload job requests (staff requirements) to the Ministry of the Interior website. If employees want to request a transfer to an organisation which is not included in the announcement, they can do so. However, an organisation that has declared that it has a certain number of vacancies is not obliged to offer a transfer because its needs or financial position may have changed in the intervening period.
  2. Employee's application: Employees interested in mobility may apply for a transfer to only one host organisation as long as it meets the necessary conditions, and if the originating organisation consents.
  3. Issuing and publication of transfer decision: The decision about a transfer is made by the host organisation and is then forwarded for publication in the Government Gazette. Where employees’ requests for transfer do not proceed, no change takes place and they continue to provide their services in the originating organisation.  
  4. One-month temporary layoff: Staff who are transferred are temporarily laid off for one month, during which time they receive 75% of their pay from their current organisation. The layoff begins on the date of publication of the transfer decision. The transfer process is completed automatically after one month. Once the lay-off ends, the host organisation takes over payment of salary.

Key characteristics

Main characteristics of the voluntary mobility scheme are outlined below.

  • It is entirely voluntary for both the originating and host organisations and the participating employees;
  • The temporary layoff lasts only one month, starting from the date of publication of the transfer decision and ending automatically exactly a month later;
  • Staff to be transferred under the scheme cannot be described as surplus and reentered in a mobility/temporary layoff scheme without making a further application;
  • Employees continue to provide their services in their current organisation if for any reason the host organisation does not proceed with the transfer process.

Evolution of the scheme

Initially the deadline for the issuing of transfer decisions was within three days of the request being submitted. This, combined with the high number of applications and the election of new municipal authorities in the local and regional elections of May 2014, created difficulties and the details of the scheme were amended.

On 1 September 2014, the time required for the issuing of a transfer decision was changed to one day after the application, once all conditions for the transfer had been met. The deadline for submission of transfer applications was extended from 29 August to 30 September 2014, so that the new municipal authorities installed on 1 September 2014 had time to assess the needs of the organisations that they had just assumed control of, and to decide whether or not to accept the transfer requests received.

When the number of requests did not reach the planned target, the deadline for submission of requests was further extended to 19 December 2014.

Results

According to the Minister for the Interior, the number of employees taking part in the voluntary mobility scheme had reached 2,827 by the end of September, against a target of 3,000 people.  Of these, 961 local government employees took part in the first phase of voluntary mobility which ended on 5 May 2014, while the remaining 1,866 had been transferred by September. The minister estimated that the number of requests could exceed 3,000 by the December submission deadline.

Trade union position

The Greek Federation of Municipal Workers (POE-OTA) expressed its reservations about the advisability and effectiveness of voluntary mobility in February 2014. The union stated that the actual aim was to meet the memorandum target of 12,500 temporary layoffs for 2013. Mobility was accompanied by the cutting of local government services, a reduction of funds available to them, and replacement of their services and work by emergency and temporary staff through relevant funded European programmes, such as the five-month 'Community Service' employment programme. POE-OTA also expressed fears that if a transfer post was not found, municipal employees would be the next victims of temporary layoffs/redundancies. The union federation called on municipal employees not to participate in the scheme.

However, after a meeting between the Minister for the Interior and POE-OTA in June 2014, the union's leaders said that they agreed with the mobility scheme provided it remained strictly voluntary and would not lead to any dismissals. The union also suggested that if the government intends to continue the voluntary mobility scheme in the future, it should be accompanied by studies and be implemented and monitored by special committees.   

Commentary

Despite the high expectations of the government, the voluntary intermunicipal employees’ mobility scheme faced not only serious difficulties in its practical implementation, but also opposition from the unions and local government employees. 

On the part of the government, the Minister for the Interior, before leaving the ministry on the eve of the recent general elections at the end of December 2014, expressed his satisfaction at meeting the target of 3,000 voluntary transfers without the need to proceed to any dismissals in local government. Moreover, the Minister of Administrative Reform supported the introduction of a permanent mobility system in the public sector as a whole on a voluntary basis, to create an internal mobile labour market in the sector based on transparency and meritocracy.

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