The tough path

It’s been repeating continuously with few variations, a fact that underscores the troubles of our political system: The problem of state employees on short-term contracts is similar to the construction of illegal buildings. The old generation of contract workers have become permanent in the same way that previous generations of unlawfully constructed buildings have become legal. In both cases, governments have given the green light for two reasons: in the first, to solve a problem that has a serious social aspect and, in the second, to put an end to an irregular situation. Of course, succeeding governments’ backtracking has only fueled fresh waves of contract workers and illegal houses. The last constitutional revision banned governments from giving contract workers permanent status. The intention was to stop the perpetuation of the problem. It was a flop, as it is the political system itself that keeps the system going, mainly for electioneering reasons. Short-term contracts have substituted for direct appointments. In fact, they are better than the latter as they keep voters hostage every four or so years. Abolishing contracts altogether would be going to other extreme. The measure is necessary for certain kinds of employees and especially for seasonal work. The problem is that contracts are mostly used to cover needs, including false ones, in the broader state sector. In fact, any vacancies can be filled by surplus staff. After all, counterproductivity is everywhere in the public sector. Even entire services are often meaningless. The biggest revolution for the Greek state would be to clean up the mess and create a more flexible, mobile environment that would respect workers’ rights. But that is the tough path that no government has so far dared to tread.

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