Truck drivers and railway workers strike in Greece

Truck drivers and railway workers strike in Greece

After the August thaw between the Greek government and the fuel carrying truck drivers, the latter are once again showing their teeth, while railway workers defy court ruling and strike.

The thaw between fuel carrying truck drivers and the Greek government lasted little more than a month, and that month being August, it has proved to be but a tactical move by the union which brought Greece to a standstill for a week last July and forced the government to employ civil conscription against strikers.

The new strike has led to new worries about the availability of fuel across the country, more so as it coincides with a strike by petrol station owners who protest against price controls imposed by the government. The truck driver's strike began on Monday with hundreds of trucks blocking much of the national highway entrances to Athens on North and South. The so called 'siege of Athens' was not resolved as the government was hoping today as the union reps declared the bilateral talks "some more of the same old stuff". The president of the union declared that the mobilisation will continue as drivers had no longer anything to lose. Although the drivers have declared they will provide fuel for hospitals, airplanes and boats, the Minister of Infrastructures Mr Reppas retorted today that "civil conscription does not involve only the means of transport but also the service itself", indicating that the government will seek to persecute drivers who simply allow their vehicles to be used by the State but refuse to drive them themselves. Drivers responded to the Minister's belligerent stance by occupying his political offices in Tripoli.

At the same time, despite a High Court decision that declared their labour action illegal, the Railway Union stopped all train transport on Tuesday while announced rolling stoppages for today, in response to plans of privatising OSE, the State rail monopoly as part of the austerity measures. During yesterday's strike railway workers occupied the headquarters of OSE in Athens.

Comments

Samotnaf
Sep 15 2010 02:44

Interesting stuff. Do you know what the response of the State/cops to the occupations was?And why are the drivers providing fuel for planes and boats?

taxikipali
Sep 15 2010 10:57

The news reported that Mr Repas asked the police not to intervene, fearing an escalation of the crisis. The truckers squatting his office left in the early hours of the morning.

At the same time policemen have been trying to stop the trucks from moving into Athens. This has led to some fights on the Athens-Peloponesse higway gates. However dozens of trucks have managed to slip through and are currently lining across Vouliagmenis Avenue in Athens itself. This despite the fact that Mr Repas has effectively tried to bribe the drivers by means of a directive that increased the value of their licenses by almost a half of its original value (27,000 from 20,000). Drivers have brushed aside the arrogant and imperial gesture of the Ministry claiming the only goal of the ministry if to split them. Instead the drivers moved to a complete immobilisation of their vehicles.

The drivers have opted to provide fuel for hospitals, planes and boats as these fall within health and security vital sectors that allowed the government to conscript them last July.

MT
Sep 15 2010 11:03

I would like to ask about what you call drivers. Are these protest about drivers as employees or as driving companies. I relate to "truck driver's strike" as it was called in Slovakia few months ago which was a pretty unclear protest which was in fact organised by one employer association.

taxikipali
Sep 15 2010 13:12

From what I understand, correct me if I am wrong, truck driving is a 'closed vocation' in Greece, meaning that all drivers are self-employed owning their trucks, which is exactly what the government wants to abolish and institute instead a company-based system. It must also be noted that during the July strike the media played a vital role against the strike to the extent that they even hid from the public that a truck driver hanged himself from a bridge in Volos. The media (radio, TV and newspapers) in Greece are owned by construction companies that take up public work contracts from the State.

Samotnaf
Sep 15 2010 15:31

Thanks for that, taxikipali - but still not sure why planes and boats fall within health and security vital sectors, except as the State defines them . Does this mean the lorry drivers have accepted this definition (hospitals, ok) - and what would happen if they didn't? Does this mean that when the State defines something as a vital sector that no one can strike against them - or what?

dinosavros
Sep 15 2010 18:58

Probably because Greece contains around 230 inhabited islands and it can be devastating to cut them off.

Samotnaf
Sep 15 2010 19:01

Of course.
- forgot about that.

taxikipali
Sep 16 2010 09:30

I must also note that other smaller industrial actions are taking place at the same time: for example today and tomorrow court of justice officers across the country are performing long stoppages while in Patras they also occupied the High Court - all trials are being as a consequence postponed. Meanwhile employees of the District Administrations across the country are performing a 24h strike and briefly occupied the Ministry of Infrastructures this morning.

Meanwhile the truck drivers have toughened their position by demanding from the Ministry of Infrastructures a total withdrawal of the austerity law concerning their trade. Long lines of trucks are blocking more and more sections of the highways across the country creating serious jams. In a typically Greek bully way of doing politics, the Ministry has warned that if the situation continues it will in revenge implement the legislation immediately scraping the three-year transition period.

Finally the strike of immigrant workers in Scala, Laconia, is continuing and the workers who are squatting the village's square are being joined by brutalised immigrants from surrounding villages. The strike takes place as a response to a local pogrom against them. Laconia is the heartland of Greek fascism. At the same time violent race related incidents have sparked again in the Athens square of Agios Panteleimonas with several people seriously wounded and fascist petrol bombs destroying immigrant shops.

taxikipali
Sep 17 2010 08:39

Update: trucks continue to block much of the highway in and out of Athens, leading, according to news agencies, to serious difficulties in supplying the market. Meanwhile OSE railway workers have announced a motorised march to the road tolls of Afidnes which they intend to open to the public, in solidarity to the anti-toll developing movement.

Note: It seems that the incident in Agios Panteleimonas was far more serious than originally believed, pointing to new methods of police-fascist collaboration: after rumors that two greeks had been stabbed by 'asian immigrants' a mob of 100 greeks and albanians gathered in the square and marched through the streets of the area smashing immigrant's shops and beating up anyone looking 'asian'. The mob was followed by strong riot police forces who simply covered their backs doing nothing to stop the pogrom. It must be noticed that in the coming municipal elections a spokesman of the fascist scum and ex news broadcaster of the National TV (ERT) in the area is standing for mayor and the increased violence is believed by some to be part of his sick election campaign.

Steven.
Sep 17 2010 08:39

thanks again for these invaluable continued updates

taxikipali
Sep 17 2010 14:26

Thanks Steven. one small note, that the situation in Agios Panteleimonas where fascists groups have called a rally next Monday is so bad that even the UN made an official complaint to Greece for the rising racist violence. It must be once again noticed that the fascist groups are coordinated by the Club of Ex-Army Officers of the area, whose members are the public spokesmen of the pogromists. It is as such a para-state formation not only tolerated but fed by the armed forces. Unfortunately the disintegration of the anarchist milieu since last spring is only worsening the situation. With anarchists and the left self-immobilised the ground is now open for fascist recruitment and action.

taxikipali
Sep 18 2010 11:42

Update 2: Truck drivers have today reinforced their blockade of Athens, causing the first shortages in the market. Many industries have halted their engines as a result of the shortage. All major routes in and out of the Greek capital are lined with trucks, cranes and other heavy-load vehicles which have reduced traffic to a painful slow trickle. At the same time a similar situation is developing in Salonica. The truck drivers intend to keep the blockade at least until Tuesday when they will hold a protest march in Athens. Strong police forces are lined at every truck blockade in order to prohibit a motorised march to the capital.

dinosavros
Sep 21 2010 22:24

From Occupied London

Quote:
Update, 15.22 GMT+2. The lorry drivers’ demonstration has now reached the parliament. Although mostly peaceful, the demonstrators were attacked with tear gas and stun grenades by the riot police at parliament square. At least three main avenues in central Athens are blocked off by the demo. According to their union, more than 1,000 lorries are now parked up around the entrances of Athens.

Here is a photo from (leftist) Eleftherotypia newspaper (still day).

And another from tvxs.gr a leftist internet site (there are youtube videos here)

Here are two quick translations of posts from athens indymedia which show 2 different ways that the truck drivers are perceived by politicized people (http://athens.indymedia.org/front.php3?lang=el&article_id=1208661)

1.

Quote:
The bosses arrived with their flags and their crosses to defend their property. Charlatans and tough guys who ignore everyone, especially the workers who drive for wages, who they over-exploit in order to buy black licences and build a fleet of trucks.
Tselentis, the senseless big-time owner and "syndicalist" of the sector, loudly condemned another protestor for daring to bring a black flag to "this holy place" (the monument of the Unknown Soldier outside the Greek parliament).
No solidarity to these charlatans. Let them reap what they sowed.

2.

Quote:
This struggle is very important and its continuation will be important in disorganizing the circulation of commodities. At the same time the state is losing millions of euros every day and for this reason the parrots at the TV channels give out negative propaganda against the drivers, directly using any reputation associated with the truck-drivers, even playing on the feminist/anti-sexist reflexes of people within the anticapitalist movement.
Today the snitches [i.e. the media] will do their very best, and the start was made by [TV station] Alter who claimed that "the truck owners praised the former king Constantinos (Cocos)." In this way someone watching, in combination with some Greek flags at the protest, can identify against them, thus staying neutral.
The target group for the propaganda is us.
Anyone who can, come down to the parliament.

sorry for the poor quality of translation, it was done very fast, if there is something not clear please ask (corrections are welcome from greek speakers).

I am not near the demonstrations and I never met any truck drivers so I can't take a side in favor or not.

From the last update from Occupied London:

Quote:
Just got back from Syntagma square in Athens. The situation there is very odd: of the hundreds (could easily be in the thousands, too, it’s very hard to estimate) of lorry drivers there, many are carrying greek national flags, they cheer the soldiers guarding parliament and some, as the tv news reported, even cheered the ex-king of greece who happened to be nearby.

On the other hand, what the TV news are quite tactically failing to report is that apart from the lorry drivers themselves, there are many, many others who are slowly gathering at the square to support the lorry drivers. As someone reported on Athens IMC, “there seems to be some lust for an impromptu mobilisation”.

An 23:30 post on athens.indymedia says there is teargas and fighting between police and truck drivers

Samotnaf
Sep 25 2010 03:10

Costas:

Quote:
the parrots at the TV channels give out negative propaganda against the drivers, directly using any reputation associated with the truck-drivers, even playing on the feminist/anti-sexist reflexes of people within the anticapitalist movement.

Don't know if you've seen this - about the UK fuel truck drivers etc blockade of exactly 10 years ago, but the media, sometimes accompanied by anarchists, used the same kind of stereotyping of truck drivers (Steve Bell, the lefty cartoonist, was one of the crudest). There were even comparisons with the truck drivers strike in Chile in 1973 that was anti-Allende from a right-wing angle...Not likely to be a convincingly manipulative caricature in the atmosphere of Greece, but they'll try anything.

These reports end 3 days ago. What's happened since?

dinosavros
Sep 25 2010 12:57

Samotnaf, I read the BM Combustion text just now. I like the scope of it although I am unfamiliar with too many things to understand everything.

To be fair though criticisms of the truck drivers are not all directed by mass media and the politically correct middle class although they definitely play a part. The union leaders as well as some (maybe many) rank and file being openly patriotic and conservative of course distances them not only from self-identified anticapitalists, but also from the broader subject of the 2008 insurrection (younger precarious workers, students, lumpen and so on)... and the antipathy goes both ways (as does the media demonization). And the working conditions of a younger precarious worker in urban service industries being so different from a self-employed truck owner can make the former distrust the latter, especially when they are old men waving greek flags. This is unlikely to change unless there is a distancing from the union leaders by the strikers. But strikers might themselves prefer to be identified in the public eye as being good patriotic citizens than with anarchist elements, something which anyway would probably be immediately used by the state to attack them.

Brief update (based on mainstream new sources):
The law passed as it is. The Minister made a proposal to the truck drivers to make three concessions (on development, pensions and taxes but that is all i know) which the truck drivers refused to accept after a general assembly on Friday. The majority of drivers decided to increase applying pressure but a significant number want to stop (the mainstream news source says). They are continuing blockades in several places in Athens and Thessaloniki including some ports but not of highways. The government has threatened them with police enforcement but there's nothing serious (yet).

Samotnaf
Sep 26 2010 04:41

Costas - if there's anything you don't understand about the text but think might be useful to understand, message me.
Your outline of the contradictions of the Greek truck drivers is clearly put - and it seems that the Greek 'anarchists' (or whatever label people use) are not adopting the same kind of dismissive attitude that many ecologists and anarchists did towards the UK fuel blockade 10 years ago, so the text is probably not so pertinent (btw, a hardcopy version of the text was printed in the United States about 4 years ago, if anyone's interested).
Anyway - you and taxikipali - carry on with the updates if you've got time - they're always interesting.

taxikipali
Sep 27 2010 13:40

Update: This is a quick note to mention that the truckers mobilisation is continuing with more than 6,000 containers stuck in customs and the market experiencing some serious shortages. The drivers are meeting today to decide on their next move. Meanwhile railway workers have announced a 48h strike. On the anecdotal side of things, one trucker has been arrested during fighting with the police at the Metamorphosi blockade after biting the hand of a brigadier...

taxikipali
Sep 29 2010 08:51

Update: during their national assembly, the truck-drivers have by a huge majority voted for the continuation of their strike and blockades despite pleas by the government for a few days ceasefire so that harbours are emptied of accumulating containers. The government has expressed its distress at the decision and has warned for a full on war against the truckers. It must be noted that a blockade yesterday came under fire by an unidentified source.
Meanwhile Peireaus pharmacies are performing a 24h strike against the measures.

It must be noted that the government offensive has now come to include educational reforms that will aim to transform the greek university system into an expanded corporation, USA style. If the government decides to push with those measures it will certainly be confronting much more than its feeble credibility and its police legions can handle. An estimation is that the Socialists are going for "Thatcherism in 6 months" in an effort to intimidate greek society who their think-tanks have judged too complacent for a revolution.

dinosavros
Sep 29 2010 10:17
Quote:
It must be noted that a blockade yesterday came under fire by an unidentified source.

I think you are mistaken, what was reported is that 2 trucks in a convoy of strike-breakers came under shotgun fire, not a striker's blockade.

taxikipali
Sep 29 2010 14:14

Sorry Costas, you are right, the news were phrased in a rather confusing manner.

On a second note, many more sectors are on the move today as part of the PanEuropean day against austerity measures with dockworkers and transport workers performing long stoppages, while GSEE and ADEDY holding a demo later this afternoon in Athens. Hospital doctors are also performing a 24h strike across the country.

dinosavros
Sep 30 2010 11:59

Athens indymedia posters report that a 43 year old striker died on Monday after being tear gassed. I haven't found any verification by the mainstream press, but indymedia posters suggest it is an organized cover-up.