It’s a miracle! Greek government turns cleaners into secretaries

30 October 2015
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They became symbols of social struggle, they became known all over the world, they served as SYRIZA‘s handy propaganda tools, they became icons in social media, now they became secretaries.

It would be a good scenario for an episode of the Greek government’s political soap opera about clientelism and statism.

As if by magic, 17 of the formerly fired cleaners were transformed into secretaries in the ministry of justice.

The finance ministry cleaners became known worldwide for camping outside Greece’s finance ministry for months, protesting their firing by the New Democracy-PASOK coalition government as part of the austerity measures required by the bailout program.

Their demand to be rehired was fulfilled by the SYRIZA-ANEL coalition and they were rehired by then finance minister Yanis Varoufakis. The day they were rehired — May 11, the day of a crucial Eurogroup meeting — a staged celebration took place with wine, singing, dancing, a few fake tears from politicians, and ministers of the new government hugging the cleaners. The event was even broadcast by a state-affiliated radio station.

Now it seems their 15 minutes of fame will be repeated. From now on they will probably be known as the cleaners who acquired secretarial skills overnight!

There is probably a deeper meaning in this act. Perhaps the government is trying to send a subliminal message to all corrupt Greeks that the “promotion” of the cleaners symbolize the cleaning of corruption by the justice ministry.

Perhaps it is a simple pay-off. The cleaners had been very useful to the ruling party. They were the perfect props for SYRIZA to show a face of social fairness, of a working class victory against the bad capitalist previous government.

Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos has rehired 17 of the cleaners to work as administrative staff in his ministry. Perhaps his message is “justice and good jobs for all,” even for the unskilled.

Of course this is not something new in Greek politics. It is the simplest way to buy votes and has been used by all governments since Greece got rid of the Ottoman rule. The “rousfeti” (special favor), the word that modern Greeks use, comes from the Turkish “rusvet.” A word that also means “corruption” in our neighbors’ language.

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