Tension is building up on both labour and prison front in Greece, with 3000 prisoners refusing food across the country, and workers from different sectors staging marches and occupations
A week before the official start of the “unrest season”, the 30 days between the anniversary of the 1973 Polytechnic Uprising (November 17), the anniversary of the assassination of Alexandros Grigoropoulos and the start of the 2008 December Uprising (December 6) and the trial of Girgoropoulos murderers (December 15), things are looking tense in Greece.
On the labour front, although a combination court rulings in favour of private companies and Chambers of Commerce (judging the strike illegal and imposing a penalty of 4000 euros for every new day of strike – the GSEE, Greek CGT, has condemned the court ruling) and renewed talks and promises by the government has led the Peiraeus dockworkers not to refresh their strike against the privatisation of the harbour before all talks are concluded, other labour fronts are opening across the country.
In the Peloponese, limited-time administrative and technical workers of the University of the Peloponese have occupied the administrative headquarters of the institution pledging to freeze its functions until their already 15 year old demands of a permanent contract is satisfied.
In Athens, workers of Aspis, a large insurance company that has gone bankrupt, gathered on Wednesday 10/11 outside the Ministry of the Economy demanding immediate compensation of the workers and a state guarantee of people insured with the private firm, via their comprehensive integration into social security schemes.
At the same time in both Athens and Salonica big protest marches by civil servants on a limited-time contract took to the streets on Wednesday 11/11 noon, against the new labour law discussed in the Ministry of Labour. The new law will change the exams people sit for entering the civil service abolishing interviews and the point-system which gave priority to certain underprivileged groups and the unemployed. Moreover, contacts of limited-time will be abolished and replace by contracts-of-tasks, limiting employment of non-permanent staff to task-specific appointments, thus hampering claims of becoming permanent. It is believed that the abolition of the point-system and the prioritisation of experience over unemployment is meant to placate claims of another group of workers mobilising at the time: stage-employed staff of the civil services.
The greek government has abolished the stage system of employment for the civil services, thus jeopardising the continual employment of 20,000 individuals, on the grounds that it amounts to an over-exploitative method of labour power extraction. As stage-workers have portrayed an unexpected inclination to mobilisation against their layoff, with almost daily protest marches in the last week, the government is believed to have introduced the abolition of the point-system in civil-service employment as a back door for stage-workers back into the civil service on grounds of experience. This tactic is also meant to separate and alianate limited-time contract workers and stage-workers, hampering the possibility of a larger and united labour front.
On Tuesday, workers of the Social Security Organisation of Self-Employed (AOEE) occupied the two buildings of the organisation demanding that 150 limited-time contract employees whose contracts end next Thursday are permanently employed.
On the prison front, in the last two days more than 3,000 prisoners across their country are refusing food demanding the reversal of the last government’s law that makes prison leaves more difficult to be granted, an immediate pardon for all prisoners with five or less years of penalty, abolition of life-sentence for drug-use related crimes, with a maximum penalty of 10 years instead, and an immediate release of all prisoners who have served 3/5 of their time.
The Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, fearing a domino and escalation of the crisis like last year’s mass hunger strike, has promised to convene on Thursday so as to find ways to decramp the prisons (the last government had promised thousands of releases for petty crimes that never happened), and for the institution of alternative social penalties on the public and private sector. Judges have expressed their reluctance towards the last measure.
Finally, despite draconian police measures in Athens, a series of banks were seriously damaged in the morning of Tuesday 10/11 in the very centre of the city by a group of anarchists with no arrests being made. The attack took place in midst of torrential rain, rendering the operation of motorised fast-response cops difficult. The attack has created tension in the Ministry of Public Order since a similar attack a month ago had led to the sacking of the Chief of State Security. As a result the Ministry has advised bourgeois media to under-report the attack.
It must be noted that the trial of the cops charged with the murder of Alexandros Grigoropoulos has been deferred from Athens first to the city of Chalkida and then to the town of Amfissa. However both city councils have reacted to hosting the trial, fearing civil disturbances. The lawyers of the family of Alexandros have also reacted, claiming that placing the trial away from the murder scene discourages witnesses to attend it in order to testify, adding that the choice of smaller cities is actually insulting their inhabitants by insinuating that in some respect they are less against the murdering cops that the citizens of Athens. As a result, the place of the trial is currently in limbo, looking likely that it will take place in the special prison courts of the women’s quarters of Korydallos prison in Athens, designed for the trial of people accused as members of the urban guerrilla group November 17 in 2002-2003.