Archive for January, 2013

Greek Government: out of the frying pan into the fire!

While the mass transport system seems to be back in operation, the Greek government is faced with a new challenge. Subway, suburban railway and trolley employees have halted their strike while bus drivers are still debating their next move.

In the meantime the agricultural world has started mobilizing with its own demands. Tractors are collecting in Lamia, central Greece, and near Kilkis, more to the North.

According to local reports ( the farmers’leaders stated that they will remain at their posts until their representatives, who are at the moment in Athens meeting with parties and government representatives, are satisfied that their demands will be met.
“We shall be everywhere, on the national roads, the ports, the airports, the customs, at the frontiers. Whether tractors will be removed depends on the outcome of the meetings with political leaders and Ministers. If the outcome does not satisfy us we shall close the roads indefinitely. It is in the hands of the government whether it will satisfy our demands.”

The farmers’ main demands are the price of petrol, the production cost, the VAT and the taxation system – “which may be the greatest trap” as they claim.

In the morning the farmer’s representatives met with Alexis Tsipras, SYRIZA leader, who assured them that he would bring the matter to the Parliament. They are currently meeting with leaders from other parties.


The Greek crisis and survival portraits

John, 43 years old, has been a shopkeeper all his life. His record shop in one of the southern suburbs of Athens was a meeting place for music lovers. Two years ago he was forced to close it due to lack of customers. “I am luckier than most, he smiles. I have found a seasonal job and the summers are long in Greece”. What happens in the winter, I wonder. “I collect unemployment but also go to my father-in-law’s olive grove and help him out. It is not a lot of money but I get the olive oil of the year. I have no children, my wife works, I am better off than many others”.

I met John at the Metropolitan Social healthcare Center in Ellinikon where he works as a volunteer three times a week. The Center started with about 60 volunteers and today has about 150. The Municipality of Elliniko – Argyroupoli covers the administrative expenses. What does John do at the healthcare center? “I collect the information and direct the patients to the relevant doctor. I make appointments, give information, help out wherever needed. As I said I am better off than most so I want to give something back”.

Annoula is about 43 too. She is divorced and has a teenage son. Her ex-husband helps with the expenses. “He still has a job but is also insecure”. An award – winning graphic artist for 20 years Anna lost her job when the record company she worked for went bankrupt four years ago. With her redundancy pay she set up her own office creating newspapers lay outs, collaborating with various municipalities in their cultural events. “I was doing well for some time. When the crisis hit the municipalities- who were among my best customers – and they stopped paying me I found myself on the rocks. They cut off my electricity supply and my telephone line. My ex-husband and close friends helped out but it is an ongoing struggle. I am thankful I don’t have to pay rent. I had to stop my son from English lessons and tuition for the exams but he is fifteen, he has to eat well. I am thinking of going to live on my father’s home island where everything is cheaper and I could rent the Athens house but that would be detrimental to my son’s future. I am looking for a job, any kind of job but so far have found nothing.” She is not eligible for unemployment benefits and her state health insurance will soon be over. “ I remember at this time last year I was collecting money to help another friend pay her electricity bill. I can’t believe it is happening to me now”.

54 years old Joanne works for one of the best known fashion brands in Athens. She has not been paid for ten months. Her husband is a pensioner and her son is studying in Crete. “I was watching on TV how the banks gave a loan to a television channel and I know that they refused my company! What do you make of it?”

George has just finished his studies and has been looking for a job for less than six months. “The starting salary is about 550 Euros if you are lucky. Employers take advantage of the situation and avoid paying the state insurance fund which means that I am not entitled to health care and of course I shall never get a pension. My friends and I are thinking of starting our own internet company selling photographs, videos, news about Greece. George’s parents are diaspora Greeks and they have no village so their only hope is immigration but they are not so keen about it. “I remember my father always talking of the home country. I want my son to live here and have a home. I shall do my best to help him. We have to be patient”, says Peter, George’s father.

Four people hit by the crisis, four stories of struggle and survival. All four are active in the solidarity movement, everyone in his/her way. All four are striving to keep their integrity and humanity. This is the bet Greek society has to win.

Greek government cohesion shaken

The Subway workers ‘strike has ended after the government issued civil mobilization orders to the employees. The Metro has resumed operations and is slowly coming to its proper schedule.

A police squad, accompanied by a public attorney, entered the depot at 4 o’clock in the morning and made the workers leave it.

While the government seems to have gained a point in its ongoing struggle against Unionists and anti – mnemonium parties its own cohesion has been shaken. The Democratic Left party (DIMAR) expressed its opposition to the civil mobilization move while Alexis Tsipras of SYRIZA claims that this move is unconstitutional.

The immediate future of mass transport in Athens is not definite yet because other unions (busses, trolleys, tram) have expressed their solidarity and so has the General Confederation of Greek workers.

Greek subway workers still on strike

Athens subway

Greek metro employees are on a 24 hour strike today. The tram and the trolley busses will operate from 8 to 16 hours. Tomorrow Tuesday all the above mass transport systems will not operate from 12 to 16.

The Union has called for an assembly tomorrow Tuesday at 11 o’clock to coordinate future actions. According to the Union’s statements the employees of Metro, Tram and trolley buses have seen their wages reduced five times in the last 2,5 years. They claim that the main problem at this particular moment is the abolition of the collective labour agreement practice.

Fair elections the only viable answer to the crisis.

After three weeks of holidays – perfect holidays when everything is done for you before you ask and you feel all warm inside- I am back in Athens and reality

  • Amateurish explosives set off by unknown culprits endanger human lives and the government blames everyone else except its own inefficiency.
  • Tax evasion is galloping while the Parliament spends one and a half day discussing how they will vote about the possible criminal actions of a former finance minister and his alleged covering up of afore mentioned tax evasion.
  •  Unemployment skyrockets while EU funding for jobs goes unclaimed.
  • Racist attacks continue unabated: the last straw was the murder of a Pakistani immigrant on his way to work. The two young Greek perpetrators, according to news broadcasts, claim they killed him because he blocked their way!

It is no wonder so many young people immigrate. One can struggle against poverty, unemployment, heavy taxation, criminality but one needs hope to do so and this does not seem to come from any quarter.

Greek public opinion blames politicians for all the evils that have befallen the country. Ms. Merkel comes a very close second. On the other hand no one sees the Greek people’s part of the problem: we have contributed to this situation and we have contributed greatly. This grim truth needs to be stated and a new political personnel, which will not carry the stain of being part of the problem, needs to be elected. We need fair elections, a government that will convince us they mean to practice what they preach and then we may have a chance to turn things around. Until that happens survival is the order of the day.

Athens Metro on strike – the employees demands

The Athens Metro, the Tram and the trolley buses have been on strike for two days. The other mass transportation is operating normally.

The Union of the three mentioned above mass transportation systems explains in a statement the reasons for the strike:“The government’s insistence to include the STASY employees to the unified payroll-advancement system of the public sector, thus cancelling in an illegal and violent way the collective agreement we have signed and which is still valid, obliges us to start mobilizations to protect our working rights.”

They also mention that their union will contact other unions as well as the General Confederation of Workers for the private and public sector to support their struggle and to coordinate their actions against the governmental decisions which are the only responsible for the inconvenience.

No receipt? No payment!

In its efforts to curb tax evasion the Greek government has come up with the bright idea . that if a customer is not given a receipt he does’nt have to pay for whatever he has bought!! Shopkeepers are asked to advise their customers of their rights!

This can probably work in the case of coffee shops, bars, restaurants and so on. But what happens when a technician explains to you that he/she can paint your house or fix your plumbing or repair a keylock for, let’s say, 100 Euros but in case you want a receipt it will be 123 Euros! The consumer must calculate, on the spot, what is to his/her best interest: pay extra and get the receipt and claim tax exemption or take the instant discount and let the government find the tax evaders on its own? In addition, please note that the (latest) Greek taxation system does not consider health expenses (visits to doctors, operations etc), tax deductible expenses!

The best comment I have read so far in the social media: who is worrying about receipts? we have no money to buy anything anyway!