AT 5.30AM yesterday about 50 armed riot police stormed the striking steel workers’ pickets at the Hellenic Steel plant in Aspropyrgos, about 25 km from the Athens city centre.
Riot police attacked pickets with noise and smoke bombs, tear-gas and then with their truncheons. About ten workers have been taken to hospital; another six have been arrested.
Police buses were placed across the front of the plant.
The attack was ordered by the Public Prosecutor who accepted that the strike was illegal despite the fact that the strike was voted for by the vast majority of steel workers in a properly conducted general union meeting.
Since last October, Hellenic Steel workers have been on strike against mass sackings, wage cuts and flexible working conditions.
The riot police attack occurred as discussions were taking place at the Labour Ministry, with the steel workers demanding that the sacked 120 workers during the strike, one third of the labour force, be taken back, but the management refused.
The adjacent motorway was closed due to the riot police’s tear-gas.
Metal Workers’ Federation general secretary Pantelis Papavasiliou condemned the riot police attack and said that the strike is not illegal and continues. He added that management remained intransigent during discussions and said that ‘it’s them that do not want the plant to open’.
Scores of trades unions have issued statements against the riot police attack.
The Coalition of the Left’s (SYRIZA) parliamentary deputy, Panagiotis Lafazanis, stated outside the plant yesterday morning that ‘the coalition government have turned Greece into a Manesis’s state’. Manesis is the owner of Hellenic Steel.
In its statement the Greek Communist Party denounced the Greek coalition government as responsible for the riot police attack and demanded the withdrawal of the riot police from the steel plant.
Steel workers remained outside the plant yesterday and called for a mass solidarity rally in the evening.
But the GSEE (Greek TUC) has refused to back the fighting steel workers with a general strike.
On Thursday night, over 1,000 workers and Peoples’ Assemblies delegations from several Athens districts marched against high taxation imposed on working class families by the Greek coalition government.