Tag Archives: strike

Food on strike

Grabbing the opportunity of today’s general strike in Greece, I’m posting a cartoon by one of my favourite cartoonists of this country, Stathis.

"I strike for one day, but the food is striking every day..." (Stathis, 18/2/2013)

“I strike for one day, but the food is striking every day…” (Stathis, 18/2/2013)

His blog, in Greek, can be found here.

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.

Plainclothes justice 2.0

Yesterday I posted two videos from an incident that took place in downtown Athens where plainclothes policemen arrested a teenager. In that video you can clearly see one of the policemen, in a dark green jacket, acting as the coordinator of the whole thing. I kept telling myself that I’ve seen him before. I did some searching and I found this video. It’s from the same day of protests (the General Strike demonstration on December 15, 2010). The incident takes place in the Exarchia district of Athens.

To translate just a couple of things that are said on the video, at 3:40 the coordinator is asked by the passers-by to give his identity. They ask “Tell us who you are. What are you afraid of?” and he replies “What do you mean “what are you afraid of?”… I’m an officer”. At 3:50 he turns to a woman and tells her “Don’t film the issue, I will break your camera”.

Yesterday’s videos where from Akadimias street, in the center of Athens. That plainclothes police team seems to have been pretty busy on that day.

Plainclothes justice

The majority of foreign journalists with whom I have worked with here in Greece found it very hard, if impossible, to believe the role (if not the existence itself) of plainclothes policemen during various demonstrations in Greece. When I’d first mention their existence they would think I’m some kind of hardline leftist who sees parastatal ghosts around him all the time. At times I would be in a position to show them one of the photos that have been circulated in Greek websites and blogs, but still, it wasn’t that impressive. So here’s a video from yesterday’s demonstration which commemorated the 3rd year from the assassination of 15 years old Alexis Grigoropoulos by a police man 2010. [Update: Thanks to my friend M.B. who pointed out to me that the video was from the demonstration of the 15/12/2010 general strike – I have hastily embedded the video and mistook it as a yesterday’s incident because of its Youtube upload date. The point of the post remains the same. Apologies.]

In the video several plainclothes policemen hang around side by side with riot police. At some point a bunch of hooded plainclothes policemen approach a teenager and proceed in his arrest. The teenager says “I was at my university school”. Here’s the incident from a second mobile phone recording.

There have been many occasions where protesters have accused plainclothes policemen of causing the typically Greek (and radically vain) “molotov cocktail” violence in order to justify tons of tear gas spraying by riot police which have repeatedly dispersed powerful and peaceful demonstrations in the past.

I don’t care if this kid has actually done something wrong – I just don’t like to live in a country (remember that “cradle of democracy” cliche?) where plainclothes policemen simply have the power to arrest people in this way.

Not in my name, “gentlemen”.

PS: I wonder what the Minister for Citizen Protection (sic) has to say about this video.

Update: Read also “Plainclothes justice 2.o

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. :-)

Greece presents… the Riot Granny

Yesterday I was having a talk with a very good friend. He’s a cameraman from Portugal and we have worked together on a news feature I did for the Portuguese elections last June. He was telling me that he feels that the situation in Portugal is becoming more and more like what he saw in Greece. I agreed in all but the fact the the Portuguese haven’t seen widespread violence yet. He was a bit puzzled and I explained that since last week’s general strike, I have a feeling that more and more people (everyday people, not just the so-called hooded rioters) have crossed the red line between peaceful and non-peaceful protest. Then I showed him these two photos of the same person.

The second photo was published in the front page of the right-wing Dimokratia newspaper on 21 October. His face is not important and thus I have edited it a bit. It’s interesting though to notice his clothes and wonder what drove this person to join the traditionally violent hooded crowd.

My friend was shocked. Then I showed him an even more extreme video. After Loukanikos, the rebel or riot dog, here ‘s the soon to be famous Riot Granny.