For Greek Workers, a Dreaded Day Arrives
More Public-Sector Workers Face Unemployment
By Stelios Bouras
March 22, 2014 10:16 a.m. ET
ATHENS—Last year, soon-to-be-unemployed school guard Eleni Pappa faced an ugly dilemma: which of her two children would have to give up their studies.
Ms. Pappa, who didn't have the money to pay for both, decided her 23 year-old son should cut short his college studies in northern Greece, return home, find a job, and help pay for his younger sister's tutoring lessons.
"I was forced to make a choice between my two children. My son has another two years to complete his degree," said Ms. Pappa. "Now he is in Athens handing out fliers for a living."
The 50-year-old, who until recently worked at a school in the posh Athens suburb of Psychiko, is a casualty of the Greek government's promise to lay off and transfer tens of thousands of public-sector workers in exchange for aid. Last year, she was among the first of those thousands to be placed in a labor reserve pool where the government had eight months to find her a new job, or let her go. That deadline expires on Monday, marking the arrival of the day Ms. Pappa has dreaded for months. There is no new job waiting for her.
"The way things are going we are heading for the soup kitchen," said Ms. Pappa, whose family will rely solely on her husband's 800-euro-a-month salary.
For the first time in more than a hundred years, Greece is sacking public servants.
In 1911, Greece introduced jobs for life under Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos. Now, a century later, his descendant, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Greece's minister for administrative reform, is faced with the delicate task of slimming down the massive public sector this law helped create.
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In the past few weeks, Greece's various public-sector unions have been staging small-scale strikes and protests against the cuts on almost a daily basis—although the turnout, usually numbering in the hundreds, is far smaller than the massive demonstrations seen in Athens back in 2010 when the country first received its rescue funding.
Still, the anger is real. Last Thursday, teachers occupied Mr. Mitsotakis's personal office in central Athens for most of the day before they were removed by riot police. Public servants have vowed to follow up a 48-hour public-sector strike they staged last week with still more protest action.
Roula Grammeli, 40, said she found out from a television news bulletin that she was losing her job at a school in the Athens area of Paleo Faliro after more than 13 years of employment.
"I don't know what it is like to be raped, but it feels like this has just happened to me," she said.
—Nektaria Stamouli contributed to this article. Read more ...