A defiant Greece has decided to rehire thousands of public sector workers, including cleaning ladies, despite sustained pressure from its international creditors.
Greek lawmakers passed a law to give back jobs to some 4,000 workers who were laid off under severe austerity cuts.
The move comes as Athens seeks a deal on more financial aid ahead of a meeting of eurozone finance ministers on May 11.
International creditors have demanded cuts in spending, including plans to trim the civil service and privatization of state assets, in order for Greece to continue receiving loans.
On May 7, the Greek parliament adopted a bill to rehire school guards, cleaning ladies and civil servants who lost their jobs or were earmarked for dismissal under the austerity program.
In 2014, 32 cleaning ladies sacked by the Greek finance ministry came to the European Parliament in Strasbourg in France to plead their case.
The insistence of the cleaners – who were replaced by cheaper workers – made them famous all over Greece.
Yesterday’s bill in the Greek parliament does not violate the terms of a massive bailout by the EU and IMF, which allows Athens to hire one public employee for every five who leave.
However, the move – combined with the reopening of the public broadcaster ERT – is likely to face criticism from the eurozone negotiators.
The talks with the IMF and EU are expected to continue over the weekend.
EU officials say a deal is unlikely before Greece has to make the IMF payment on May 12.
Eurozone officials say no further loans will be released until further economic reforms have been agreed.
Greece needs progress at May 11 meeting because that is likely to affect the willingness of the European Central Bank to allow the continued emergency lending that is keeping Greek commercial banks afloat.
Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis insisted the country would meet May 12 deadline.
Yanis Varoufakis also rejected the view that Greece had been reckless with bailout money, saying that 91% of the bailout funds his country had received so far had been spent on repaying banks, particularly northern European banks such as Germany’s – rather than helping Greece’s economy.
Yanis Varoufakis again stressed that Greece had no intention of leaving the euro.
Greece met its deadline on May 6 for a repayment for €200 million.