Civil Servants In Greece 'Sit-In' To Fight For Their Jobs

Greece's two largest unions held a general strike and anti-austerity demonstrations on Tuesday. Now, the country's parliament will debate and vote on deep civil service cuts. Greece must downsize the public sector in order for it to keep getting international bailout loans.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

In Greece, unemployment is around 27 percent. Until recently, government jobs have been protected. Now, the country must cut the public sector in order to keep receiving international bailout loans. The parliament is set to vote on the cuts today. NPR's Joanna Kakissis reports from Athens that civil servants are staging a sit-in to fight for their jobs.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: The protest felt like a mini Woodstock, not the tense demonstrations at Syntagma, the square outside parliament, has become known for. A band played as hundreds of civil servants pitched their camps. One was school guard Vaso Kanapi(ph).

VASO KANAPI: (Greek spoken)

KAKISSIS: We're not numbers that they can subtract just like that, she says. That's why we came here. The European Union and the International Monetary Fund, which are lending Greece billions in bailout loans, want the country to cut a total of 150,000 public sector jobs, nearly 20 percent of the workforce. They say politicians gave many of these jobs to their own supporters regardless of qualifications. That's one reason why the civil service is so inefficient, says Kyriakos Mitsotakis. He's the Greek government minister in charge of the downsizing.

KYRIAKOS MITSOTAKIS: Had we addressed the structural problems of the public sector earlier, Greece would not have gone through such a deep recession.

KAKISSIS: Mitsotakis says most of the job cuts have already come through attrition, but there must be some layoffs.

MITSOTAKIS: There's always concern for any person who is going to lose her job so this whole process needs to be done in a just and fair manner and through a process of proper assessment, and this is exactly what we are trying to do.

KAKISSIS: He says those civil servants who got their jobs through merit will likely keep them, and the protesters know that the general public may have little sympathy for their cause after so many private sector jobs have been lost. For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis in Athens.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: