OPINION

Provocative privileges

In order to function effectively, a democracy needs a proper system of checks and balances. Promoting the common good depends largely on the monitoring of power and those who pursue it. Accordingly, individual and civic rights must stand above self-interested objectives, while any failure by the opposition to criticize a flawed government decision is a sign of democratic deficit. Even worse, of course, is a situation in which the government and opposition join hands to promote a dodgy and controversial policy. According to data published in yesterday’s Kathimerini, Parliament’s plenary session, which includes deputies from all parties, has passed legislation making parliamentary staff the most privileged working group in the country. Staffers are paid more than other public servants, can retire after 29 years (instead of 35), and receive bigger pensions than those in the public and private sectors. Parliament staff get a monthly pension of 2,175 euros while a civil servant with the same qualifications and years of job experience must get by on 954 euros. The pension of the Parliament’s director-general is 4,261 euros when the head of the Supreme Court will receive up to 3,488 euros. Even cleaning staff receive 1,612 euros, while the pension for a ministry director is a mere 955 euros. Parliamentary staff are not themselves to blame for this provocative state of affairs. After all, they have never been seen striking for better wages or other perks. It is more the result of patron-client relations than pressure for better conditions. Cross-party tolerance of this regrettable state of affairs is due to the fact that staff hiring is not done through ASEP, the civil service recruitment watchdog, but on the basis of proportional representation between parties. After all, they have an interest in appeasing their clientele. Abolishing these privileges will require a hefty amount of political will.