Employees take strike action against new government economic policy
In mid December 2006, employees in the public and private sectors took strike action in response to the economic policy put forward by the government for 2007. The workers were also lobbying against the proposed changes to the employment relationships of employees in public utilities and services.
On 13 December 2006, a 24-hour general strike was called by the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE) and the Confederation of Public Servants (ADEDY), in reaction to the economic policy put forward by the government, as well as their proposed changes to the employment relationships of employees in public utilities and services. Participants in the strike included public and private sector employees, as well as employees in public utilities and services – a sector known as ‘DEKO’.
Strike participants included public servants, teachers at all levels, hospital employees (doctors and other staff), DEKO employees and local government employees. Almost all public transport came to a standstill on the day of the strike, since employees of Athens Piraeus Electric Railways (ISAP) and the metro, as well as employees of Hellenic Railways Organisation (Organismós Sidirodrómon Elládos, OSE), took part in the strike. Employees of Olympic Airlines also participated in the protest, and the airline was forced to operate only one domestic flight per destination and one international flight per country. Moreover, air traffic controllers staged a four-hour work stoppage.
At 12.00 on 13 December 2006, GSEE and ADEDY held a protest rally at Pedio tou Areos, a park in the centre of Athens, followed by a march to parliament buildings.
Demands of trade unions
In staging these strikes, the trade unions’ intention was to denounce the economic policy set out in the 2007 government budget, as well as attempts to change employment relationships, the insurance system and the ownership status of the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (Οργανισμός Τηλεπικοινωνιών της Ελλάδος, OTE).
The demands of the trade unions include the following objectives:
- to agree to higher incomes for employees in both the private and public sectors, including real increases in salaries, wages and pensions that would ensure a decent standard of living for employees;
- to increase unemployment benefits to 80% of an unskilled worker’s basic pay;
- to stop the proposed legislative changes to employment relationships in DEKO, among them the elimination of job security, the use of employment contracts similar to those in the private sector and state intervention in collective bargaining. More specifically, the trade unions are opposed to the announced legislation, which is being taken forward regarding the privatisation of OTE and the assignment of its management to foreign individuals or state bodies;
- to grant a home heating allowance to low-paid employees and pensioners, depending on their geographical location and family status;
- to address the issue of rising unemployment due to deindustrialisation and company relocation – in short, to create new policies to boost employment;
- to address the problems of the social insurance system by supporting and reinforcing the public insurance system, namely primary and auxiliary pensions. The trade unions demand increased pensions and support for recipients of low pensions, as well as efforts to combat uninsured and undeclared work. In parallel, the unions oppose any attempts to raise the retirement age or to lower pensions;
- to prevent the privatisations announced by the government;
- to address the issue of permanent employment status for contract workers and payment of money owed to them in back pay.
Recently, there has been a strong sense of dissatisfaction among the trade unions. The latter have been particularly disapproving of the government’s incomes policy and of the recent legislation on employment relationships. This dissatisfaction escalated following the government’s announcement regarding new legislation on the employment relationships of DEKO employees. Apart from the important changes it would introduce in relation to employment status, the new legislation also contains provisions which go against the constitutional right to free bargaining between employees and employers, by providing for the possibility of state intervention.
Anda Stamati, Labour Institute of Greek General Confederation of Labour (INE/GSEE)