Civil servants are angered, Graz mayor warns

Graz Mayor Siegfried Nagl has said he understands the “anger” of Styrian public servants.

Civil servants working for the province of Styria and its capital Graz were informed their salaries would not rise next year despite agreement on federal political level that wages should be increased by 2.95 per cent.

Social Democratic (SPÖ) Minister for Public Servants Gabriele Heinisch-Hosek and Fritz Neugebauer, who heads the civil servants’ branch (GÖD) in the Federal Trade Union (ÖGB), agreed last week that public servants should receive compensation for the inflation which was 2.95 per cent on average in the past 12 months. People’s Party (ÖVP) Finance Minister Maria Fekter gave the green light to the accord which will cost the state around 280 million Euros.

Civil servants employed in Upper Austria took to the streets when they were told that their incomes would be upped by just 1.95 per cent next February. Styrian public servant unionists refused to rule out a labour dispute when it became evident that civil servants working in the central province would not get more next year than this year.

Now the mayor of Graz said “real anger builds up when disparities are created.” Nagl told Die Presse today (Fri): “Dissatisfaction is guaranteed.” He underlined that his city always accepted federal decisions but also a 16-point programme of cost reductions. The ÖVP member called the recent decisions “difficult” considering the bleak economic outlook.

Nagl promised to speak with unionists representing public servants working for the institutions of Graz about possibilities where “toughness could be reduced” in future decisions. The mayor of Graz refused to comment on the latest performance of his party’s federal leaders but admitted that it resembled a debating society at times. However, the conservative also said that the federal ÖVP “sometimes performs well.”

Nagl, who took over the ÖVP’s Graz branch in 2000 to become mayor of the city three years later, said speaking to Die Presse that his party must convince Austrians that it was the faction with the best concepts for the future. Asked for his opinion on the ongoing feud between Styrian and Lower Austrian ÖVP leaders, Nagl said it did not matter where people came from.

The mayor of Graz – who heads a city coalition formed by the ÖVP and the Greens of Vice Mayor Lisa Rücker – also spoke out about the Freedom Party’s (FPÖ) appeal for early elections. The right-wing party wants residents of Graz to head to the polls next November instead of January 2013. “The only reason why the FPÖ is in favour of earlier elections is because it knows that its disgusting campaigning is out of place before Christmas. We always had elections in January. It will be the same next time around,” Nagl said.

Nagl’s attack on the Styrian SPÖ-ÖVP coalition for freezing the incomes of civil servants working in the province comes after Greens leader Eva Glawischnig deplored that the federal government failed to reject a pay rise for public servants earning more than 4,500 Euros. She said such a step would have posed a savings potential of 130 million Euros.

Social systems expert Bernd Marin called the agreement between Heinisch-Hosek and GÖD negotiators as “not very creative”. Marin said the joint SPÖ-ÖVP administration should have carried out structural reforms.

Bernhard Felderer of the Institute for Advanced Studies (IHS) claimed that many public servants’ incomes would increase by more than 2.95 per cent in the foreseeable future because of clauses in their contracts guaranteeing automatic pay rises every other year. The conservative economist said the settlement between the government and unionists was “not a good example” since the state was pressed to introduce significant austerity measures in the coming years.