595 women cleaners of the Greek Ministry of Finance in Athens were sacked on 17 September 2013 and their jobs given to private contractors. Since then they have been unemployed and fighting to get their jobs back.
Their wages, when they worked, were only between 205 to 757 euros a month.
Since the day they were sacked they have fought back and have organised a 24 hour picket, every day, of the Finance Ministry for nearly a year.
They have stood their ground and the government have tried to force them to go away.
It has used riot police to beat up these defenceless women, some are 50 or 60 years old. They have been hospitalised, bruised and knocked to the ground but they will not go away until they win their struggle.
Their case for reinstatement has come before the Greek courts which they won but the government refuses to recognise it.
News Line visited their picket line in Athens last week and spoke to some of the cleaners.
Tdimitra explained: ‘We believe there must be a new government of the left, only a left government will give us what we need for ourselves and our children.
‘We believe that a new left government will carry out the court decision and give us back our jobs. Nobody is saying when they will hold elections in Greece but we think it will be soon.’
Evaggelia added ‘My arm was broken by police when they attacked us.
‘I believe all the changes since 2009 will culminate in even bigger attacks on workers this summer, and people will rise up, that’s why we believe this government will not last and there will be elections soon.’
She added: ‘I’m left-wing and believe in a left-wing government but I believe the left must completely take over the administration of the country, a left administration will be the best form of government.’
When the picket was attacked by the riot police, the ladies suffered severe bruising and broken bones after being kicked and being beaten with batons.
Evaggelia explained ‘The police attacks move so fast you cannot do much to defend yourself.
‘I’m not afraid of the police anymore. When the police hit me with their sticks it was like a little flag went up in my head and I realised I was not afraid of their violence.
‘The biggest violence is not the physical violence of the police, it’s the violence inflicted on the people by unemployment and poverty – this is the biggest violence against the people.
‘I agree with the call for a workers government but people are not yet ready for such democracy.
‘But people are changing slowly – when we started our strike no one was political now we all are.’
Another lady cleaner Fotini agreed. She added: ‘I believe there will be changes, we have reached the limit, every day it gets worse.
‘Five years of Pasok and coalition governments have made people realise that a new radical left-wing government is the only way out.’
Despiua added: ‘The Euro elections in Greece show people have reservations about the left-wing but I believe that at the next elections the working class movement in Greece will rise up.’
Evaggelia continued ‘Since 1974 (the year the junta was overthrown) and especially in the last twenty years, all governments in Greece have lied to the people about the economy, about how strong it was and how everyone could spend – it brought the people a false happiness, a super consumerism.
‘We didn’t know how weak the economy really was.
‘Now people realise everything was run on debt, huge debt caused by the banks.
‘This has led to many people becoming very depressed, everything we had is gone and lost and it is difficult to restart our lives, so now we understand we have to take the fight on ourselves.
‘We believe that what is needed is a people’s Europe not a bankers’ Europe.’
Outside the Finance Ministry were two other 24 hour pickets, the school guards and some teachers, both sections sacked by the austerity government for about seven months.
SHOP WORKERS STRIKE ON SUNDAY
LAST Sunday, the shopworkers union supported the bookshop workers union’s call to end Sunday working, challenging the new laws that have banned Sunday as a public holiday.
Picket lines emerged outside some of the shops in Ermou Street which is a main shopping street in Athens.
For the first time, they were successful in closing the Marks & Spencers store for the day and picketing shop workers were elated.
Yiannis, a shop worker, on the picket outside M&S, said that ‘6 day working meant there was no time for the family, and that their rights had been taken away without any compensation.’
He also explained that the shop workers union was dominated by the Communist Party who he disagreed with as two years ago, at a 100,000 demonstration against the huge austerity cuts, which took place outside the Vouli, the CP members lined up with the police to guard the parliament against the angry crowd of workers.
Nikiforos, another picketing shop worker, told News Line that ‘Shop workers were expected to work on a Sunday for no extra pay and were also supposed to get a day off during the week but that most shop keepers ignored this.’
Nearly all the shops last Sunday closed for the day, some never bothered to open. Everyone agreed that it was a very successful action.