NEW: "This is going to be a success story," prime minister says
The vote clears the way for another $11.5 billion in loans
The Greek unemployment rate is already over 27%
EU and IMF officials say Greece is meeting its bailout targets
Greek lawmakers on Sunday agreed to cut thousands of government workers to secure another 8.8 billion euros ($11.5 billion) in bailout funds.
The vote clears the way for 15,000 civil servants to be fired by the end of 2014, the first time Greece’s cash-strapped government has said it will cut its workforce of about 700,000.
The right to a permanent position once hired by the public sector had been protected by the Greek constitution before Sunday, and about one in four Greeks is on the public payroll. Cutting that figure is part of the loan agreement between the government and its creditors, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
But the layoffs will be coming when unemployment has skyrocketed to more than 27%. Previous austerity measures have cut pay for public workers as much as 30% and reduced pension benefits.
Sunday’s 168-123 vote came after heated debate in parliament and with protesters gathered outside. The civil servants union ADEDY said the measure will signify the end of the country’s welfare state, but the three parties that make up the country’s ruling coalition supported the layoff bill.
“We are going through a very difficult path, but this is going to be a success story,” Prime Minister Antonis Samaras told reporters after the vote.
EU and IMF officials said earlier this month that Greece is on track to reach its bailout targets. But each round of austerity measures has fueled sometimes-violent demonstrations, and critics argue the tax increases and spending cuts imposed by struggling eurozone economies have driven up unemployment without spurring growth.