Greece staved off disaster last week securing a bailout extension from it’s European partners, but they aren’t out of the woods yet. Eirini Zarkadoula reported this story from Athens.
Unemployed Greeks continue to struggle despite bailout extensionGreece staved off disaster last week securing a bailout extension from it's European partners, but they aren't out of the woods yet. Eirini Zarkadoula reported this story from Athens.
Tough negotiations are still ongoing and it remains to be seen whether Athens can get its finances in order, or whether another bailout will be needed. In the meantime, it’s ordinary people who are living with the consequences. Mass unemployment and harsh austerity policies have put many on the breadline.
Half month after parliamentary elections and SYRIZA’s (The Coalition of the Radical Left party) victory, and many citizens expect a change.
The unemployed want their jobs back, while low paid employers wait for better wages.
Despina Kostopoulou lost her job during the financial crisis. She is one of the 600 cleaners who used to work in the Finance Ministry.
Divorced with two daughters, she is unemploy
ed in her early fifties. Despite the difficulties she faces, she is proud to admit that her life has become much worse.
“I have been working at that job for 22 years. Crisis has made our lives more difficult. My kids and other kids cannot find jobs because of the crisis. What crisis gave is more debts, worse life quality,” Kostopoulou said.
Nevertheless, she didn’t stay at home waiting for a solution, she and her colleagues have been fighting for more than a year. They spent days and nights at a tent outside the Finance Ministry, in the center of Athens.
These cleaners have become a symbol of resistance.
Kostopoulou admits that it is not easy for Greece to overcome the difficulties, but she is optimistic that the Greek government will negotiate better than the previous one.
“We learnt from the media that the Finance Ministry had decided to sacrifice us to get the layoffs needed. We could not believe it. We believe that SYRIZA will hire us again as promised. I believe that better days will come for Greece, but it needs time, step by step. I believe in the culture of leftists,” Kostopoulou said.
Mass unemployment has been a permanent feature of Greek life since the imposition of austerity measures in 2010. The economy contracted by 25 percent as a result of a recession lasting years.