ATHENS – With thousands of Greek public sector workers looking forward to retroactive payments of holiday bonuses that had been scrapped under austerity measures, the country’s high court struck it down, ruling the cuts were Constitutional.
A section of the top administrative court earlier said ending the bonuses to meet demands by the country’s international creditors was unconstitutional, setting in motion what could have been a blow to the state’s coffers but a bonanza for the workers.
The decision, which also impacts staff at local authorities and state entities, was made after a bitter debate between the judges, the newspaper Kathimerini said, without citing the sources who said that.
The law scrapping the bonuses was passed in 2012 and has been challenged repeatedly over its constitutionality by civil servants but with the country’s lenders adamant that elimination of the bonuses for Easter, summer and Christmas stay in place.
The ruling came days before the May 26 elections for European Parliament and Greek municipalities with polls showing Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras has cut into the lead of the major opposition New Democracy after he handed out pension bonuses and rolled back taxes he had increased.
The Washington, D.C.-based International Monetary Fund (IMF,) which took part in two first bailouts for Greece totaling 240 billion euros ($267.64 billion) said the return of the bonuses would cost the country 2.6 billion euros ($2.9 billion.)
Tsipras suggested that a recent Easter handout to pensioners could be distributed again at Christmas – if he’s still in power – with polls showing he’s on a path to be defeated in the general elections by the major opposition New Democracy.
“Our goal is for an equivalent sum to be given at Christmas too,” he said and that he would go ahead and stop a new first-time tax on lower income groups he agreed with the lenders to impose before it started costing him in surveys.
He told radio station News 24/7 the upcoming elections as a “vote of confidence” in the measures and handouts and said that objections by the creditors came only from a handful of what he called “extremist bureaucrats” against him.