Tag Archives: Hellenic Halyvourgia

Days of Strike

Here’s a short doc I produced with my colleague Giannis Vakrinos about the workers’ strike at Halyvourgia Ellados steel industry. The story goes like this.

In mid-October, the owner of the company called the workers to sign an alteration in their contracts. Due to the financial crisis and the company’s losses, he asked them to reduce what in the rest of the world is common sense. They wouldn’t work 8 hrs per day and for 5 days a week anymore. The new working hours plan was 5hrs per day, 5 days a week and a 40% cut in their salaries which would mean that they’d earn around 500 euros.

As you can also see in the doc, there is a widespread belief that if the company’s proposals are passed in this factory, they’ll then spread all around the heavy industry with consequences even in the retail sector. The immense solidarity that you can see is owed to this fact. Workers of nearby factories and people from all around Greece are sending food and money to the strikers who have managed to last for more almost 2,5 months. The story is continuing and I will update on any developments of future posts.

Credits:

Script – Interviews: Kostas Kallergis, Giannis Vakrinos
Director of Photography: Alexandros Theofylaktou
Editors: Theodora Katrimpouza, Ilias Tsiampouris
Music: Andreas Koulouris (from the soundtrack of “To Rodi” by Christos Karteris)

Days of strike (trailer)

Here’s the trailer of a short documentary I produced with my colleague, Yannis Vakrinos. It’s about the strike at Halyvourgia Ellados, one of the biggest strikes in Greece for the past 2 or 3 decades.

Here’s the trailer (subtitles in English are incorporated in YouTube)

The story goes like this: the company asked from its workers to stop working 8hrs per day, 5 days per week, and work instead for a total of 25 hrs per week, accompanied of course with a 40% cut in their salaries. If this was not accepted, the company’s owner said that he would have to fire 180 people, almost half of them. The justification for this was the economic crisis. However, workers said that production was surprisingly going up at around 70% between 2009-2011 and that their factory was so busy last summer that they hardly took any holidays.

The company’s administration has so far layed off 50 people. The workers were notified by a paper stuck on their home’s doors. Yes, they went to work in the morning and when they returned they found the paper there.

The worker’s, and not just them, believe that once this ground-breaking measure passes from their factory, it will spread all over the economy. So they feel as if they are protecting the last barrier which could stop the cuts and the abolition of the “8hrs/5days per week” right. Their struggle moved thousands of Greeks who arrive at the factory every day and bring food, medicines and money to the workers. They know that this strike must last, otherwise they will be the next ones to face the same cuts. As one steel worker said “if my salary is reduced from 800 euros to 500 euros, what would the super-market employee negotiate about? Will he be able to ask for 800? His boss will say that steel workers earn 500 euros and they are working under extreme conditions so his super-market employee should be happy with 400 euros!”.

The video will be hosted by Greek satirical team Ellinofreneia’s website but will not be under copyright restrictions. So, feel free to share it around. Thanks.

Pangalos’ reception in Berlin

This  is how the vice-president of the Greek government, Theodoros Pangalos, was received in Berlin by local Greek activists (of the Real Democracy movement). The banner stated support for the 400 strikers of Hellenic Halyvourgia steel industry. They’ve been on strike for about two months, one of the biggest labor actions for decades. The strike has been greatly underreported in the Greek media, causing concern and suspicion.

What country/time is it?


What country/time is it?

This is one of a series of such posters which are stuck on walls around Athens. There’s always this girl dragging her suitcase, on which there’s usually a Greek language word-game. This one is a play with the words country (χώρα) and time (ώρα). Thus, the question on the suitcase translates to “What country/time is it?”

Here’s a short article I wrote for the website of Ellinofreneia (a team that has a radio show at REAL FM and a website – they usually, but not always, use satire in order to express their political views) with some inspiration from the street art above. (Note: it was written addressing mainly Greek readers)

What country/time is it?

Any kind of discussion apart from the situation in Greece is irrelevant. It’s off topic. In the texts, in newspapers, on the internet, in talks with friends, everyone is discussing about the crisis. Don’t complain if your friend discuss nothing else but this. If you already complain, you’re irrelevant. The only thing that I will allow you to do apart from thinking about this situation, is to fall in love. Other than that, just talk about the crisis. Think, chew it over, even you do it for the first time in your life. Pump up some courage from the guy next to you, from the striker of Hellenic Halyvourgia (Steel company) who has denied himself almost a month’s salary. The discussion about the situation is not misery.

The situation itself is misery and without talking about it, you won’t avoid it.

You don’t need me to tell you the facts. You can see them wherever you turn your eyes on. I don’t care if I can’t see all 20.000 homeless people of this country around me, all I care is that in every pavement I can see every night one more carton for a bed. Only if you manage to feel that this carton has a bigger value than the paper of a bind, will you realize what’s going on around you. You will re-read on it the word bankruptcy.

A group of friends was talking a while ago in a tavern at Dekeleias Avenue. At first they talked about the crisis. Then about the trips they want to do. Later on again about the crisis. Afterwards about the celebrity journalists. In the end, again, about the crisis. One felt the need to act, another was in despair, a third was afraid of a possible coup d’ etat, the fourth was talking about conspiracies. They were later narrating stories that shocked them.

A well-dressed man, around his 60s, approached us when we were in Mavili square. He had a cheese pie in a small paper bag, placed in the inner pocket of his suit, exactly where he used to hide his wallet. He asked for money with his head lowered from shame. Then he looked at us, hardly keeping his tears in his eyes, and said: “Be careful, kids! You can’t imagine how easily life can turn upside down”.

“Enough”, said Anastasia. You can’t stay uninvolved. It’s time you choose sides.

Men of Iron

This morning, I woke up and read the story of the Greek Public Power Corporation’s (DEI) trade union, GENOP-DEI and their occupation of a company’s building. It wasn’t just a random building of course but the data-processing center from which disconnection orders are issued. You see, a couple of months ago the Greek government has announced the levying of a new property tax (in relation to the square meters of the property) which would be incorporated in our electricity bills. Why the electricity bills? So that people HAD to pay the tax in order to avoid a very short-term and vital consequence, having their electricity supply cut off.

Nikos Fotopoulos greeted his comrades from the prosecutor's office window

The GENOP-DEI union’s leader, Nikos Fotopoulos, posed as a hero immediately after the announcement. He said that DEI’s workers would never allow such a thing to be carried out with the help of their hands. Some people wondered back then: Who actually governs this country? Can a trade unionist block an elected government’s policy? Well, today the government has tried to perform its own tour de force. Nikos Fotopoulos and 9 other GENOP-DEI union officials were detained after up to 80 riot policemen were sent in to end the four-day sit-in at the Public Power Corporation (DEI) data processing centre. Fotopoulos himself appeared before a prosecutor on charges of  obstructing the functioning of a public utility. The riot policemen arrested 5 more people in the event (3 employees in Ministries, a pensioner and an unemployed man). “We’ll always fail the exam of the course on Submission” shouted Fotopoulos from the prosecutor’s office window as another Andrzej Wajda’s Man of Iron.

To avoid any misunderstanding, I don’t believe that the new property tax is fair. Especially when exceptions have not been designed (unemployed people for example also have to pay this). The implementation of the law caused laughter in some cases, anger in some other. There was a big debate in September on whether churches should pay the tax, based on the square meters of the temples. And there was an uproar a couple of days ago when some earthquake victims (of a 1995 quake, who were promised to get preferential loans in order to rebuild their homes) were sent their electricity bill which included the new property tax, based on the square meters of the container-houses in which they are living since the 1995 earthquake. However I believe that what GENOP-DEI is doing with these shows of rebelliousness is just an act in order to gain public sympathy in their struggle to protect their guild’s benefits. See this post for another show by GENOP-DEI.

This trade union is not alone though. It is not uncommon during the past months to see trade unions which in the past were synonymous to either the interwoven political and business interests (e.g. journalists) or the state protectionism of special groups of public employees. Of course this is not to say that all trade unions function like that in Greece (but a lot of my friends would say that the majority of them do).

Strike at Hellenic Halyvourgia (Steelworks)

One example for what I wrote above is this. Given the opportunity of a 25-day long strike at Hellenic Halyvourgia (Steelworks) which has gone largely unreported by the Greek mainstream media (thanks to business relations, advertisement, you name it) the Union of Journalists of Athens’ Newspapers (ESIEA) has sent a newsletters showing their support to the workers at the steelworks. While I was writing this, I found another example. The Union of Employees at the Public Broadcasting Corporation (POSPERT) have stated their support to GENOP-DEI and demanded (?) the release of the arrested trade unionists. Here are the relevant newsletters (from ESIEA and from POSPERT), unfortunately only in Greek.

It’s fantastic! Greek trade unions seem to have remembered that they represent the working class of this country. Too bad they are a bit too late.

PS. A very common slogan during the demonstrations in Athens which aims to show the hidden agenda of trade unionists (who usually end up in the Parliament with one political party or another) is this: Αλήτες, λέρες, εργατοπατέρες. I’d be grateful if a Greek reader could translate it. :-)