Nineteen mayors and the prefect of the Attica region have refused to implement law 4250/2014. This law has been created with one sole purpose: to sack thousands more local council and public-sector workers. This is to enable the government to reach budget targets set by the Troika – the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.
Under this law more than 30,000 jobs, which had been converted from fixed-term to open-ended employment contracts over the last 20 years, will be re-evaluated. The majority of these workers already had their contracts worsened by presidential decree in 2004, during the previous conservative New Democracy government, and under a 2000 law by the earlier Pasok (former social democrats) government. Today’s ND-Pasok coalition wants to re-examine the files and cancel thousands of the open-ended employment contracts.
The law states that, each year, 15% of the workers affected must be re-evaluated as ‘inadequate’, regardless of whether this is true or not. At the same time, it does not mention any objective criteria or method of evaluation, giving the managers of each department the possibility to ‘evaluate’ workers as they feel like. It creates an open field for unaccountable behaviour and will turn workplaces into Roman arenas, with each worker fighting so that they are not sacked but that someone else is included in the 15% instead.
The government’s response has been to unleash a massive slander campaign, with the aid of the big television channels and newspapers that they have in their service. It has also referred the first five of the mayors – of Zografou, Halandri, Larisa, Patra and Nikaia – to the state prosecutor for refusing to comply with the contract re-evaluation.
The fury with which the government and the establishment media are attacking the mayors and the prefect has raised the possibility of forming a united front of the most militant councils. If this is properly developed, and manages to hold out against the pressure, then the government would not be able to stop it. That possibility exists. Already, the first meeting of left councils and local political forces in Attica has been held in relation to creating a cross-council co-ordinating body for the abolition of a new property tax. There is also a mobilisation around the issue of first-home foreclosures.
In a separate, though linked, development, the government is trying to force job cuts on other public-sector workers through a self-evaluation procedure. This provoked the ADEDY public-sector union to announce action short of a strike in May. This included workers refusing to fill-in the forms, and saw a non-compliance rate of 98%. Despite a series of court rulings that the action was illegal, which saw the deadline for the forms put back four times, this action has stalled the government’s plans.
The five mayors facing prosecution, as well as the others who will also be referred, must not back down, but be willing even to go to prison in defence of local authority jobs, and in defence of the public character of local services. In such a struggle it is certain that not only would the vast majority of council workers stand in solidarity, but so would most workers and people in the local communities.
The 19 mayors and the prefect of Attica, along with left and militant forces of all councils, need to create a national cross-council co-ordinating body. If that happens, local authority workers and communities will feel that they can re-emerge onto the frontline and fight, not only on these immediate issues but to take their demands even further. That could open the road to take on the Troika’s policies and even to bring down the Troikans in government.