Posts tagged ‘unemployment’

All the President’s women – part two

TsarouhaThe Ministry of Macedonia-Thrace of previous governments has become part of the Ministry of Interior and Administrative Reform, a “demotion” according to right wing politicians, has been given to Ms. Maria Kolia – Tsarouha. Ms. Tsarouha was first elected in her home town, Serres, in 2000, with New Democracy. In 2012, after refusing to sign the second mnemonium, she was ousted from New Democracy and joined the Independent Greeks Party. It is considered common knowledge that Ms Kollia-Tsarouha belongs to the close circle of ex-Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis, former President of New Democracy.

KountouraMs Eleni Kountoura is Deputy Minister for tourism. She has followed more or less the same route as Ms Kollia: from New Democracy to the Independent Greeks and now to the ministry. She is a graduate of the Gymnastics Academy of Athens and a champion athlete. True to their reputation Greek mass media concentrate on her international career as a top model….We are looking forward to her efforts to boost Greek tourism.

Rania Antonopoulou, deputy Minister for the reduction of unemployment comes from the academic sector. She gave up her teaching post in Bard College to offer her services to the most difficult task of this government: unemployment. Due to her long stay abroad she is not very well known in Greece.

antonopoulou

The percentage of women in the present Parliament is 23,5%, higher than in previous Parliaments but still not as high as the goal of 33% set by the Greek women’s movement.

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.

The 19-20 October protests a turning point

The two day protests (19-20 October) of the Greek working people constitute a landmark in modern Greek history. The protests of October have fundamental differences from the protests of last summer.

In spite of the Government’s hopes, the doubts of the right wing opposition, the hesitation of the new left and the downright skepticism of the Communist party Syntagma Square continued to attract anti-austerity protesters. It is true that it was a completely uncoordinated crowd: from the nationalist wing to the apolitical, self-serving taxi drivers, from the unemployed to the civil servants, from the extreme right wing to the rebellious students, from the General Confederation of Greek workers to the shop keepers union. All these groups were brought together by their inability to survive under the austerity measures and the heavy and unjust taxation imposed in the name of “national salvation”.

This rising, heterogeneous movement was headless. The new factor in this uprising is that the Communist party of Greece decided to claim the hegemony of the movement. PAME, a Unionist Front by its own definition, the Communist party’s expression in the union movement, stated their decision to protest in Syntagma Square on the 19th and to take part in the Parliament siege on the 20th. This announcement was hailed as positive by the majority of the other groups of the movement since it would reinforce the common struggle. What was not immediately clear was that PAME considered the Square as its own grounds and did not take kindly, to say the least, to other forces, like the “DEN PLIRONO” ( “I don’t pay movement”)demonstrating next to them.

This attitude is not new in the purist attitude of the Communist Party of Greece. Their protests and marches are always strictly organized and separate from the other forces in order to protect them from agents provocateurs. The Syntagma Square crowd is something unknown to them. The clashes were inevitable and when the hooded so-called anarchists tried to go through the PAME ranks to reach the Parliament a full assault developed. The police stayed back, throwing tear gas and chemicals only when directly attacked.

The outcome of a few hours of generalized street fighting was one of the PAME protesters dead and several others injured.

On the political level the great loss was that the focus was turned away from the real issue, the voting of the new austerity measures in Parliament, to the fights outside it.

The only casualty in Parliament was Ms Luca Katseli, former Finance Minister, who voted against article 37 of the new law and was ousted from the PASOK Parliamentary group.

Greece in (hot) turmoil

Temperatures are rising in Greece. The thermometer in my balcony shows 33 degrees in the shade!! The political thermometer is reaching unprecedented temperatures too. PASOK members of Parliament claim that they are attacked and humiliated whenever they go into public. The Government blames the left for these incidents but noone is convinced.

Mr. Athanassiadis, Member of Parliament for PASOK, claimed that he decided to vote for the 2nd Memorandum despite his doubts and criticism because he was threatened over the phone!!! His claims have not been investigated so far.

All this is going on during a period of high unemployment, precarious working conditions for the majority of the people and a continuously changing tax system. A retired civil servant confessed to me: “I do not even know what my pension amounts to anymore.They keep cutting a bit here for solidarity assistance to the unemployed and a few Euros there because some of the benefits that I paid for are now considered redundant!! I am too old to immigrate otherwise…”

Needless to say that the younger generation is leaving the country en masse. Some of the older ones who were studying abroad are now staying on and helping the new arrivals. Worse is expected as from September when the private sector will also be hit, when schools will open and parents will be forced to face more expenses together with more strikes since both University and High School teachers are up at arms against the education reform.

In the meantime, the Syntagma Square “enraged” are organising a coordination meeting with the Assemblies of other squares in Athens’neighbourhoods and other towns all over Greece. 8 and 9 July they will meet in Syntagma under the shadow of the Municipality’s request that they evacuate the Square.

At a time when normally people would be discussing their holidays now they get organised to visit their families in the village or their friends who have a seaside house since they cannot afford hotels anymore.

On the other hand, the open air cinemas have started working, providing a much needed relaxation; new take away cafes are operating on the beaches where you purchase your coffee and drink it walking by the seaside.

The silver lining in this cloudy atmosphere is that the majority of the citizens is becoming aware of the corruption of the ruling parties and the way they and their needs have been exploited.