On our last day in Athens I managed a visit to the Ministry of Finance, where many of the 595 women sacked by the Government from their cleaning jobs in September last year are camped out. Pictured here are, left to right, are Patrisia, Lilly, Konstantina, Liisa and Lemonia, who, like all the other women who cleaned the Ministry, were paid between 205 and 757 euros a month. As they argue, it’s difficult to see how state finances would be helped by bringing in private contractors instead. You can read a statement from them here.
When I told Konstantina that I was planning to return to Athens and would like to visit again, she said “We don’t want to be here then”.
The women have been waiting since 12 June when the Supreme Court ruled upheld an appeal by the Ministry of Finance against an order that would have forced them to rehire the women. Their cause has won support in Greece and around the world, but in a statement they asked for continued support in order to put pressure on the Government to comply with the court decision.
Greek justice has vindicated us, but the Government refuses to comply with the court decision. It wants revenge on us because we are fighting. It wants revenge on us because we have opted for dignity.
The women – many of them in their 50s and 60s have had a rough time at the hands of the riot police. On the day of our visit, they were keeping a watchful eye from a distance, but heir presence at the Ministry – and throughout Athens – is a constant. A number of times we saw large blue police vans with riot shields lined up against them, and often tear gas canisters were on show.
It’s thought that the courts might be stalling until they can see what way the political wind is blowing after the elections… It’s yet another uneasy stand-off, but the cleaning women I met certainly seemed to have the courage and determination to continue in their struggle “for life and dignity”.