Greek Seafarers Call 24-Hour Strike

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The Federation of Greek Seafarers Trades Union PNO have called a 24-hour strike for 16 April on all ferries, passenger and cargo ships, against a government Bill for the ‘restructuring of the Commercial Naval Affairs Ministry’.

The PNO says that the Bill would lead to mass sackings, huge wage cuts and further destruction of workers’ rights.

The Bill is also opposed by the Ministry’s employees trade union who also fear mass sackings and wage cuts.

In a press conference last week, Piraeus’ port and ferry crews’ trade union leaders pointed out that this Bill is designed to ‘militarise’ the Ministry and sack as many employees as possible, to be replaced by Greek Coastal Guard and Navy officers.

Last February, the week long seafarers’ national strike was declared ‘illegal’ by the courts and then ferry crews were put to work following an early morning raid by armed riot police and Greek Navy’s coast guard special forces.

Then the social-democrat PNO trade union leaders were caught napping and had failed to take any precautions to protect the strike and the seafarers despite the fact that just a week earlier the riot police had executed an early morning raid against the Athens Metro strikers.

The PNO leaders have no intention of fighting the government all the way.

They are putting up a protest in essence to keep the seafarers’ struggle down and not spreading.

Likewise the social-democrats leaders of the Federation of Greek Dockers OMYLE have voted to accept a two-year collective agreement with the Greek Port Authorities accepting huge wage cuts, of up to 35 per cent, and destruction of labour rights and conditions.

Only last week in a press conference these trade union leaders spoke in militant terms for a struggle against the government Bills, one for the Naval Affairs Ministry the other for the privatisation of the Greek ports, and announced the formation of a co-ordinated alliance of all ports’ trade unions!

In Athens, the representatives of the EC-IMF-ECB troika are demanding that the Greek government sacks some 7,000 public sector workers and civil servants this year and a further 13,000 by the end of 2014.

The troika dictates that some 12,500 public sector workers be put immediately onto the so-called ‘availability’ schemes, a stage for dismissal within a year.

The national federation of public sector workers ADEDY have refused to even call a protest.

Appearing before a parliamentary committee, the Governor of the Bank of Greece Yiorghos Provopoulos revealed that 50bn euros are available from the ECB-IMF bailout fund for the recapitalisation of the Greek banks.

He downplayed the recent stormy upheavals at the National Bank of Greece, the biggest Greek bank, and at the Eurobank, saying that all is proceeding according to plan.

Provopoulos stated that these banks informed him that they cannot raise private funds for recapitalisation and therefore they would come under the jurisdiction of the state Financial Stability Fund which then will decide on the process for the merger of the two banks.

The aim, Provopoulos said, was for ‘a smaller number of banks’.

In its statement on Monday the Federation of Bank Workers Trade Unions (OTOE), acting as the mouthpiece of the Greek bankers, condemned the troika action which the union says has prevented up to now the merger of the National Bank of Greece and the Eurobank.

Although the OTOE states that the Greek Bankers Association has refused to sign a new collective agreement, the union has up to now refused to call any workers’ mobilisations.

l Makis Anagnostou, the workers’ union spokesperson at the Vio.me factory in Thessaloniki which is currently under occupation and being run by the workers has given an interview to a journalist from New Zealand about the occupation.

Question: In New Zealand, we get the impression that the economic crisis is very intense. Could you tell us about how the crisis has impacted on people, especially workers, in Greece?

Makis Anagnostou: Great parts of the Greek society and particularly the workers are pushed towards impoverishment.

According to official statistics more than 40%, but we think the numbers are higher than that.

Question: The owner of Vio.me simply stopped paying you and stopped running the factory. Tell us about the sequence of events and the impact on the workers in the factory?

Makis Anagnostou: Vio.me was a part of a group of companies that were in trouble.

The parent company had financial difficulties and while the two other companies were profitable, the downfall of the parent company dragged them along.

The consequences for the workers were enormous.

For a long time they were deprived of the most basic things like food and they were pushed to a situation of extreme impoverishment. The union realised there are some people among us who have great psychological problems and might even come to the extreme of taking their own lives. We realised that we cannot sit around demanding our wages we must do something more radical about it.

That was when we took the decision to take production into our own hands. And that was when we announced this decision to the rest of society.

There was a lot of solidarity which gave us big encouragement and gave us the support that allowed us to proceed to self-management.

Question: How did the decision to occupy come about?

Makis Anagnostou: There is no other course of action. The only alternative we have to self-management is unemployment and isolation. That was why we decided to proceed to self-management.

Of course this has a history and this goes back to when the factory shut down and we had our general assemblies and started communicating with each other of all the opinions that were expressed in the Assemblies.

So we were holding assemblies every day for a long time and we were taking more and more mature decisions through the Assemblies. This is where the idea of self-management first came about.

• In France, following a demonstration on Tuesday against the government’s pro-employer bill going through the National Assembly, the CGT has issued a call for a massive May Day turnout against the legislation.

By 250 votes, the deputies adopted the Interprofessional National Agreement of January 11, 2013.

This text retains the most destructive measures for labour law, which include flexibility, forced transfers, blackmail over jobs to lower wages and so many setbacks for workers, meaning the information campaign and the mobilisation must be continued.

The 120,000 workers, union members and activists who gathered on April 9th, in 163 demonstrations and rallies across all France, have shown their determination to continue this united mobilisation throughout the parliamentary debate which will continue in the Senate.

May 1st, international Labour Day, will be a crucial day across Europe when tens of thousands of workers will express their anger at the crisis.

The CGT has called for a massive participation in the demonstrations which will be organised all over France.