Europe

Defiant Greece rehires public staff despite bailout talks

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Media captionCleaning lady Irene Chantzi told the BBC she was delighted to be going back to work

Greece is rehiring thousands of public sector workers, including cleaning ladies, despite sustained pressure from its international creditors.

Greek MPs passed a law to give back jobs to some 4,000 workers who were laid off under severe austerity cuts.

It comes as Athens seeks a deal on more financial aid ahead of a meeting of eurozone finance ministers on Monday.

Greece is running out of money as it has to pay €750m ($845m; £555m) to the International Monetary Fund on 12 May.

International creditors have demanded cuts in spending, including plans to trim the civil service and privatisation of state assets, in order for Greece to continue receiving loans.

'Red lines'

On Thursday, 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 programme.

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Media captionEuclid Tsakalotos said there was a general recognition that negotiations had begun to make more progress in the last few weeks, and he was optimistic

Last year, 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.

Thursday'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.

But the move - combined with the reopening of the public broadcaster ERT - is likely to face criticism from the eurozone negotiators.

'Red lines'

Euclid Tsakalotos, the Greek minister leading the talks with creditors, told the BBC it was time for the EU and IMF to show they supported Athens in its desire to do things a little differently.

"We have said from the beginning that we have red lines and we need to have the flexibility that our partners said would be available to us."

"There must be things that we support, that we bring to the table with a different logic. Because if there was nothing with a different logic, why wouldn't we have just supported the old regime in the first place?"

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 Tuesday, the BBC's Europe correspondent Chris Morris says.

Eurozone officials say no further loans will be released until further economic reforms have been agreed.

For a radical left-wing government - which was elected on a promise of ending austerity - that is proving a difficult pill to swallow, our correspondent adds.

Greece needs progress at Monday's 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 Tuesday's deadline.

He also rejected the view that his country 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.

And he again stressed that Greece had no intention of leaving the euro.

Greece met its deadline on Wednesday for a repayment for €200m.

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