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Visiting a Greek Post Office – The Dilemma

Tom Winnifrith
Saturday 7 July 2012

I had to post certain documents back to London and so was forced to visit my local Post Office. It was even more instructive than the Bus Station visit of a few days ago. I should say that I ran there (one mile) in the burning heat and managed to run half way back. As part of the weight loss campaign I was quite proud of that.

Arriving at the Post Office which serves a small suburb of not a very large town I stumbled in a sweaty wreck. The place is open from 8.30 AM until 2.30 PM five days a week meaning that its staff (in this State owned enterprise) have to put in a back breaking 30 hour week. They are probably paid for 14 months a year and get to retire at 55 but that is not the point. Did I mention how many staff were crammed into this small office? Five. That is one member of staff for every 1.25 customers that I observed during my 20 minute visit – I needed time to catch my breath, have a cigarette etc.

The office provides a number of services which cannot be cost effective (mailboxes) and – needless to say – does not have an automatic stamp dispensing machine which would have served my purpose as well as that of the lady in front of me. My guess is that by cutting out a few product lines provided as a social service; automating paper based procedures which saw three desks overflowing with forms; opening longer hours and making the staff put in a 40 hour week and by installing a stamp dispensing machine, five staff could become two or three.

But as with the Bus company, here is the dilemma. I know that it would be cheaper to pay the two or three staff I would fire dole money than a full state funded wage but with unemployment at 23% and raising daily those folks thrown on the dole would be almost certainly unable to find work. Their reduced spending power would accelerate Greek economic decline making the country’s debts even less likely to be repaid (not that there is a cat in hell’s chance anyway) and the creaking fabric of Greek society would creak a bit more.

I remind you that this is the only place in Europe where we have ever seen a move from the Cities to the sticks as folks go back to a life based on subsistence farming/welfare rather than just a City based welfare-based existence. It is also a country where democracy (of sorts) replaced Military rule less than 40 years ago. Yes I would still start firing the Postal workers but I would do so with a great sense of trepidation.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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