Angry at austerity? Imagine you're a walrus
ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Trouble at work?
Think of Billy the Walrus, the story of a hapless arctic mammal too scared to give his flock's intimidating leader truthful advice. Or practice keeping your cool by imagining you're dealing with a rude caller moments after your spouse has filed for divorce.
That's the advice being given to Greek tax inspectors as part of mandatory anger management classes, introduced by the government after it decided to extend deeply unpopular emergency taxes.
A tough job even at the best of times, demanding taxes from Greece's squeezed households after six years of recession and waves of austerity measures has become increasing stressful - and dangerous. Tax inspectors are routinely threatened, sometimes with weapons.
Help is needed, but not like this, a tax inspectors' association said Tuesday.
The seminars are funded by European Union programs and are aimed at training tax inspectors on how to manage the anger of members of the public.
"Frankly they are ridiculous," Trifonas Alexiadis, deputy leader of the National Association of Employees at State Financial Services, told the AP. "We are in favor of training programs but the content of this course is primary school level."
The government last year broke its pledge to phase out austerity taxes, including a property levy initially collected on electricity bills with the threat of disconnection for those who didn't pay. The tough conditions fueled protests.
"We've had multiple cases of violence at tax offices by angry members of public, including physical assaults; shots were fired in one case, and one attacker came with an ax," Alexiadis said.
"It's not dealing with anger as much as it is dealing with reality. Too much pressure is being put on people who can't pay. And what are we supposed to tell them?"
The money for the seminars, he argued, would be better used training employees to offer digital services.
Tax officials themselves have also had substantial pay cuts and plan to join a 24-hour strike by the civil servants' union on Wednesday.
Greece has repeatedly raised taxes and cutting spending to stave off bankruptcy and keep out with demands of international bailout inspectors, who are expected to return to Athens this week.
The conservative-led coalition government has promised to pull Greece out of a six-year recession and start financing itself independently on bond markets again, insisting that public sacrifices have rescued the economy.
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