Thursday, May 15, 2008


Greek workers are noted for their militancy and they've demonstrated that again as they've pretty much closed the place down in protest over government privatisation schemes. The worker actions and strikes disrupted air transport, bank and state services on Thursday.

The partial sale of phone company OTE was just one of the privatisations that thousands of Greek workers protested against when they went on strike and took to the streets. That sale is the centerpiece in the privatization plan of the governing conservatives, who won re-election last September and now hold a small majority among the 300 seats in the Greek Parliament.

“The government’s sell-off of OTE to Deutsche Telekom, despite opposition from the majority of society, is like putting up a ‘for sale’ sign on the future of the country,” said Dimitris Stratoulis of Synaspismos Left Coalition.

The head of the phone company union Panayiotis Kourtis told EuroNews: "It's treachery, this deal, they're handing over public property. We've repeatedly protested. But unfortunately the government prefers to pander to foreign company bosses. OTE's being given away to Deutsche Telekom, without the Greek people getting any of the money."

Commented Stathis Anestis, GSEE (Greece’s largest union group) spokesman.
"We want to stop the sell-off of these companies, which will lead to job cuts, low quality of services and increased product prices. This is only the first step. We will certainly continue with more strikes in the near future.”

M and C reports ships remain anchored at the ports of Pireaus near Athens and in the northern port city of Thessaloniki and state carrier Olympic Airlines cancelled 40 flights and rescheduled another 24.

Greek private air company Aegean also cancelled 28 flights and changed departure times for another 52 as air traffic controllers held a four-hour walkout.

Dock workers have been conducting their own campaign against privatization for w while now and joined in today's actions. The strike by dock workers who fear the privatisation of the nation's ports will lead to job cuts has also been backed by workers at post offices, banks, the Hydro Company, Athens Water Company, ambulance and hospital employees, where workers also held work stoppages.

Also joining in the fun is the bank workers' union OTOE, which has called a 24-hour nationwide strike at banks that have refused to take part in negotiations for a collective labour agreement in the banking sector. Among these are National Bank of Greece, Alpha Bank, Eurobank, Probank, FBB, HSBC, BNP Paribas, Citibank, American Express, Hellenic Bank and Bank of Cyprus.

In Athens, police fired tear gas to prevent the striking bank employees from entering the headquarters of the National Bank of Greece..

In addition thousands of students staged a separate action against recent reforms in state universities.

The following is from (Australia)

Greeks march against privatisations

THOUSANDS of Greek workers walked off the job today and marched through central Athens in protest at the conservative government's privatisation plans.

Dock workers, hospital and civil aviation authority staff and workers at Greece's biggest phone company OTE walked out a day after the government agreed to sell a stake in OTE to Deutsche Telekom and share management with the German firm.

"This is how workers show their discontent with the government's sell-out policy," said Stathis Anestis, spokesman for the GSEE private sector umbrella union.

Dozens of flights were grounded and public offices were shut, as an estimated 3500 protesters marched peacefully to parliament, holding banners reading "enough of reforms" and chanting "public property is not for sale".

Private and public sector unions, representing more than 2.5 million workers, pledged more strikes against privatisation, adding to pressure on the government which is pushing through difficult reforms with a slim majority in parliament.

"Workers have agreed to escalate the fight because they believe the government was elected on a platform to strengthen the economy and not to sell it off," Mr Anestis said.

OTE labour unions have already pledged more strikes to protest against the deal with Deutsche Telekom, which is awaiting parliamentary and regulatory approval.

"We hope parliamentary deputies will resist and not ratify this disgraceful agreement," OTE's union said. "Our fight will become stronger and more determined."

The government, with only 151 deputies in the 300-seat government, hopes to privatise several other state-run concerns, including the main commercial ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki, to reduce public debt and increase competitiveness.

Although faced with labour unrest for months, first over pension reforms and now privatisations, the ruling party is expected to approve the deal.

Dockers have staged repeated strikes and refused to work overtime since the beginning of the year, causing serious delays in goods processing as containers pile up. They fear any sell-off will lead to job cuts.

They were backed by three-hour work stoppages at state carrier Olympic Airways, by air traffic controllers, by post office workers, and at electricity utility PPC, the Athens Water company and banks.

The controllers' and Olympic's strikes forced the carrier to scrap 40 flights to and from Athens and reschedule another 16 international and domestic flights.

Aegean Airlines cancelled 28 flights, most of which were domestic.

But truckers said today they had ended a 10-day strike which had dried up fuel supplies and caused long queues at filling stations, disruptions to businesses and transport and product shortages.

"Our demands haven't been fulfilled but we are suspending the strike, because we feel a social responsibility. We will give the government time to reconsider our demands," said Angelos Falaris, general secretary of the fuel truckers' union.

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