Unionists are not blameless

Umbrella union ADEDY has heralded protest action against the government’s efforts to streamline the public sector – surprise, surprise. The citizens of this country have suffered through the protests of public sector employees for years, becoming almost immune to them. The truth is that constant protest action changes little for the civil servants themselves either, who launch work stoppages and strikes at the slightest provocation, usually to their own detriment.

Now though, thousands of public sector workers are facing the threat of losing their jobs. This is no minor provocation, regardless of whether the magnitude of the planned firings is middling compared to the devastation suffered by private sector employees. The fact that the government’s plan for streamlining the civil service consists almost exclusively of horizontal cuts thanks to the inability of the state to operate with any hint of meritocracy should not be overlooked. Neither should the double standards, the red tape and the patron-client relationships that have made the state what it is today.

On the other hand, it is ludicrous for unionists to denounce the political order, the main political parties and successive governments as being exclusively responsible for the problems that beleaguer the entire public administration. Things are not quite as the unionists present them, as anyone who has been involved in the public sector in even the most minor role can attest.

The history of the modern Greek state goes hand in hand with the cultivation of a clientelist system. State-dependent unionists – irrespective of their party colors or affiliations – and the corps of the civil service contributed in every way to preserving and developing clientelist ties, while at the same time seeking a role in decision making. Such practices have grown to unprecedented proportions in the past 30-odd years, as has the systematic undermining of any concept of meritocracy, ensuring that no one stands out from the general mediocrity. The most compelling evidence of this is that almost every single public sector employee has an untarnished record to show at the end of his or her career.

Unionists and influential sectors of the civil service were and are also responsible for effectively annulling disciplinary councils, and they continue to display the same recalcitrant stance toward any cost-cutting measure, even one as simple as moving a service from one building to another to save on rent.

They are also responsible for turning the action of striking from a measure of last resort to a tool of instant blackmail. And if the politicians are responsible for backing or ceding to their demands, then the unionism that feeds off the state and the mentality that has become embedded in the civil service are equally to blame.