Just when Greece's "troika" of international lenders thought it got Greece to agree to controversial labor forms when the national government passed them as part of a larger package of spending cuts last week, it now seems that it may not have been that easy.
Local governments – which employ thousands of public sector workers – are basically saying "no thanks" to the austerity measures passed down by the central government in Athens.
Der Spiegel correspondent Georgios Christidis brings an interesting story from Thessaloniki of a tense city hall meeting outside of which a small group of municipal workers were protesting job cuts.
The meeting came to a quite remarkable conclusion, Christidis reports:
A few hours later, city workers and journalists packed inside city hall to observe the city council meeting. The meeting ended with a decision to disobey the central government. Mayor Yiannis Boutaris had submitted the motion – a refusal to send the Interior Ministry a list of workers ripe for dismissal. City administration and unions, so often enemies, were united.
This move by Thessaloniki, of course, flies directly in the face of the demands made by the troika – Christidis explains that the lenders in fact insist on "concrete lists of people" to be dismissed from local governments. Now, it doesn't look like they are going to get one from Thesaloniki.
Christidis also says that not everyone in Thessaloniki is pleased with the mayor's decision to disregard the list:
Boutaris' position comes as a surprise to Nikolaos Tachiaos, a liberal politician who served as deputy mayor of Thessaloniki: "It is disappointing to see that even mayors like Boutaris who sponsor a modernizing agenda refuse to send the lists," he told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "Was it not Boutaris who said last year that the city of Thessaloniki can operate 'with half the staff?' The message they are sending is that there is a huge gap between words and actions in Greece."
Now, municipal unions are pledging to stand together and up the pressure on governments to resist the layoffs ordered by Athens. And mayoral involvement seems like it could be a turning point.
Christidis says Greek mayors "could even go as far as submitting their resignations en masse – an idea to be discussed and decided on at an upcoming union meeting."
This is not good news for the central government, which was weakened in a recent austerity vote that saw the ruling coalition lose seven members to defection.
Meanwhile, the far right Golden Dawn party, which has inspired several comparisons to the Nazi party in 1930s Germany, is the fastest rising political party in Greece, and they are running on an anti-bailout, anti-immigrants, anti-foreign creditors platform.
This confluence of events highlights how the political situation in Greece – which has been extremely fragile for the last several years – continues to become even more precarious.
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