Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday adamantly rejected calls for contract workers in the public sector to be given permanent jobs, indicating that it is time for Greece to limit the size of its inflated civil service. «The state cannot act as an employer for an unlimited amount of people,» Karamanlis said in Parliament. «We cannot hire half of the Greek population in the civil service and expect the remaining half to pay their wages.» The government has come under pressure in recent weeks to give contract workers permanent jobs or open-ended contracts. Opponents have accused the ruling Conservatives of making pre-election pledges to secure jobs for contract workers in the civil service. «This request is… hypocritical populism or, even worse, it reveals an attitude that all or almost all Greeks must become civil servants,» said Karamanlis. Jobs in the public service have long been sought after by Greeks because civil servants usually have generous benefits and good job security. Earlier this week, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos guaranteed that all public sector contract workers would be paid any outstanding wages but also said that their positions would not be made permanent. Pavlopoulos said that 33,000 of some 73,000 contract workers have already been given open-ended contracts. He said the rest did not fulfill the necessary requirements. During yesterday’s parliamentary debate, PASOK MP Dinos Rovlias accused the ruling conservatives of «plundering» tens of thousands of votes from contract workers because they did not live up to promises to give them permanent jobs. Rovlias suggested that the government should use the Supreme Council for Personnel Selection (ASEP) to decide which contract workers should be given permanent jobs. Karamanlis rejected the proposal: «It is strange that PASOK should pretend that it is finding solutions now that it is in opposition, whereas it created problems when it was in government,» said the prime minister. The leaders of Synaspismos Left Coalition, Alekos Alavanos, and the Communist Party, Aleka Papariga, called for all contract workers to be given permanent positions. New Democracy, however, has already shown that it does not want a civil service that is inflated any further, having already put an end to jobs for life at public utilities.