18 December, 2012

Are There Too Many Municipal Employees in Piraeus?

Today I had an opportunity to look into the status of Piraeus municipality and I want to share it with you, although probably you - if you live in Greece - know better than me.

Some weeks ago, the company I work for received a letter from the Municipality of Piraeus. It was about an unpaid fine dating back to 2008. We received two other such letters from other municipalities (Δήμοι). Evidently they are digging up old penalty records looking for anything un-paid.

Anyway, the letter was saying that the company has to pay 80 Euro at the Municipality or by sending a postal cheque, if there is no objection. In our office, there is no one who has been working since 2008, so there was no way to object.

Before I continue, I think it is worth mentioning that the two other municipalities that fined us gave us a possibility to pay at the post office. But not Dimos of Piraeus.

The letter was saying that I had to go to the 2nd floor and it was there I went first.

When I showed the letter to an employee, she told me that I had to go to the 5th floor, because the letter should be processed.

Classic. Why couldn't you write so in the letter?

I went to the 5th floor and entered the office of traffic fine. There were 5 or 6 employees inside and no one evidently was in a position to receive citizens. As there was a woman who was not doing anything (she was seated with both of her elbows on the desk and her head on her hands - not a position that anyone who is going to work would take). She shouted to her colleagues "which girl can process the letter?".

There was another woman who was seated in front of computer and chatting with a colleague, who was smoking - smoking in public space is against the law in Greece -, about the projected dismissal of municipal and other civil servants.

She told me to come to her. She took the letter from my hand, checked something with her computer and wrote 5 digit number on it. Then she told me to go down to the 2nd floor, giving it back to me.

Again at the 2nd floor, I gave the letter to another employee. She checked again something with her computer and printed 2 pieces of paper. Giving back everything to me, she told me to go to the employee next to her to pay.

I did as I was told and paid the fine. End of the journey.

Leaving the Town Hall, I was asking to myself how it was possible for the municipality to need so many employees to collect 80 Euro fine from me? It was exactly a "How many blonds are needed to change a light bulb - Five" situation.

In Greece, many public jobs were created only to create employments. The country went bankrupt and the circumstances have supposedly changed, but inside some of the public offices, things are continuing unchanged.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw on TV the Mayor of Piraeus saying that his municipality was suffering from lack of workforce, because it has not been getting new employees for years. When I saw it, I felt a bit of sympathy for him, but now I have to take it back. If he could not employ new workers, he should have streamlined the bureaucracy and tried to make the best of the resources he had. Evidently he was not capable and he should not be proud of.

With so much unnecessary red tape, there shall never be enough municipal employees in Piraeus.

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