First, history is not repeating itself. There are many that try to equate what is happening in Greece now with the 60’s, 70’s and 2008. It is not repeating itself in the manner some suggest. It has its’ roots in history, but it is not the same. If you use past history to explain today, then you must know the history. Let Palin and Bachman make history up. This is not communists and against anti-communists. It is not banks against the people. Banks are civil service jobs. They are part of the government.
One must understand that the bailout is not about saving Greece: It is about saving the EURO.
So this post begins with the basic explanation of what is going on in Greece today. The following posts will explain how they got there. The real history. All of which is a matter of public record here in the United States and Greece.
I am Greek, third generation. My first language was Greek. I was born here. I travel every year for pleasure spending six months or more in Greece. I have done so since 1957. I have lived through many of these dark days.
The Greeks have always been fond, loved, a good protest. They even have an official day for it: November 17th. The school holiday marks the day in 1973 a tank crashed through the gates of the Athens Polytechnical University killing students and protesters by the military dictatorship that began in 1967. But that is for another post.
The current protests have nothing to do with any of that. These protests are more the ravings and actions of spoiled children.
Retirement age is 62. Early retirement is common, usually at 55
Civil Service jobs are handed down to family members
Civil service jobs are for life
Banks are State run – civil service jobs
One in four working people works for the State
Pay is more than generous in all departments. A janitor in the Ministry of Finance or a bank for instance earns as much as supervisors in other Ministries
Free health care
Greece’s brightest young graduates all want to work for the civil service
Total of paid 7 weeks vacation each year
So when the government was forced to implement austerity measures, it meant a freeze in state pensions, raising the retirement age to 65, abolition of free distribution of newspapers, higher taxes on cars, cut in public sector pay of up to 15 per cent, and cuts in disability benefits.
They went nuts!
When the French civil servants when of strike this past September and October protesting the raise in their retirement age, the Greeks protested in support.
However, some of the policies announced last May and now, supposedly as assaults on the Greek way of life, raised eyebrows all across Europe.
Not many knew of the Christmas, Easter and summer holiday bonuses in the public sector. They are affectionately known as the 13th, 14th and 15th salaries. Bonuses in addition to the 3 weeks vacation in August, the 2 weeks at Christmas, and the 2 weeks at Easter.
As I said, these jobs are for life. Family members inherit them. Who can really blame the beneficiaries for wanting to keep things the way they are? They are set for life.
Strikes and protests are more than just a yearly event. They are a way of life also.
It would be easy to dismiss these people, young and old, as lazy and unambitious, but the public sector’s attraction as an employer of choice for Greeks has its roots in much darker places.
That will be the subject of the next post: The Family Business of The Political Elite.