ATHENS – Greek Parliament Speaker Evangelos Meimarakis has rejected calls from a handful of lawmakers for the salaries of all of them to be cut again during the country’s lingering economic crisis.
Although their pay had been cut previously, some MP’s said it wasn’t right that they continue to be paid many times more than the average wage of workers who have seen big pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions. The lawmakers also have big tax breaks on their pay and benefits.
Meimarakis said the structure for paying MPs is enshrined in the Constitution and there’s nothing he can do about it, nor will be. “People’s anger is understandable, but the reactions from certain deputies are not. We cannot cut MP salaries,” Meimarakis told Mega TV.
He said, however, that MPs who didn’t want all their pay could donate some to charities on their own initiative although he didn’t say if he would.
With MPs living large while 20 percent of the country has been pushed into poverty, Meimarakis nonetheless said they would continue to enjoy salaries far above workers even though the body is often out of session.
He added, however, that there is room for discussion to reduce or remove the big tax breaks they get above and beyond their monthly salaries of 5,760 euros ($7,808) not including many other perks they get, including office expenses and another 909.31 euros per month ($1,232) for mailing.
The government, which controls the Parliament with a slim majority, has rammed through cuts that have brought the pensions for some elderly down to as low as 300 euros ($406.93) per month before taxes, about 14 times less than an MP.
Parliament workers had earlier also been exempted from further austerity measures after threatening to strike and shut down the body to prevent any activities. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said he would nonetheless move to include them in the same measures being imposed on others but set it aside.