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Halyvourgia Steel Plant: Working for Peanuts Amid Deep Recession?

 Prime Minister Antonis Samaras decided to apply the law. He sent riot police squads to open Halyvourgia in Aspropyrgos – a steel plant that halted its operation nine months ago, when the plants’ workers’ union went on strike to oppose reduced salary, enforced reduction of working hours and massive lay-offs. A court had ruled two months ago, that the strike was “illegal”.

Ten days ago,  the management of the steel plant had announced it would close Halyvourgia as it could not longer maintian the inoperative plant.

“The management of Greek Steelworks SA warned early in the year that 2011 was one of the worst years the company had experienced. Domestic demand recorded a historic decline in the fourth year of the Greek economic crisis. Exports collapsed too mainly due to a loss of competitiveness. The main problem, as employers’ data show, is not wage costs but the high cost of energy for industrial consumers. Fuel excise duties have increased threefold since the beginning of the economic crisis and the price of electricity has become excessively high.” (GreekReporter)

On Friday, police squads and a prosecutor rushed to Halyvourgia to enforce the law, and some limited use of teargas was form the side of the police in order to disslove tension when striking workers clashed with those employees willing to work. 

PM Samaras sent the message:

“The law will be applied. The right to work is sacred.”

To say that in a country with more than 1.1 million jobless and the minimum wage at 550 euro gross per month  more than brave…

  “Scuffles broke out between riot police and protesters Friday when a prosecutor was dispatched to reopen the Halyvourgia steel plant in Aspropyrgos, western Attica, following a nine-month strike by workers that had effectively closed down the facility.

Police had been on standby when the gates of the facility opened at 5.30 a.m. and clashed with striking workers and members of the Communist-affiliated PAME labor union.

The senior plant manager sustained head injuries during the fracas while some protesters clashed with employees who wanted to return to work. Six people were arrested, charged with committing violence, and later released pending trial.

The police intervention reportedly came at the behest of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Thursday night after talks between Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis, unionists and the Halyvourgia management broke down. According to sources, Samaras stressed the importance of upholding the law and protecting citizens’ right to work, as well as to strike. “The right to work is sacred and the government will do everything to protect it,” Samaras is quoted as saying. His words were echoed by government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou, who also questioned the motives for leftist opposition SYRIZA supporting striking workers. “With whom are they expressing solidarity?” he said. “It was the workers that asked for the police to intervene.” Earlier, SYRIZA had condemned the police action as “a raw, unprovoked, military-style intervention.”

Friday’s intervention followed a court order issued a month and a half ago which deemed the strike by Halyvourgia workers illegal. The plant had been closed since October 31, when employees refused to accept a reduced salary and working week. Since then Halyvourgia’s management has fired at least 50 of its 400 workers and is reportedly planning to transfer the Aspropyrgos operations to Volos, in central Greece.” (ekathimerini)

The conflict continues.

In times of deepest recession a crucial question arises: Should employees accept working for peanuts without resistance?

On the other hand, nobody can claims Greece has a high production and factories are desperately needed in the debt-ridden country.

However another question arises: why many factories – mostly from Northern Greece – moved their operations abroad. Just to avoid taxes and high operations costs?

 Just recently the president of Bulrgaria thanked Greeks for creating 100,000 jobs, saying that 3,800 companies of Greek interests paid taxes in Bulgaria in 2011. Before the crisis, the Greek companies operating in Greece’s north neighbour were just a few hundreds.

 

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16 comments

  1. “On the other hand, nobody can claims Greece has a high production and factories are desperately needed in the debt-ridden country.”
    That , KTG, is where you are sadly mistaken. Greece does not need factories, Greece needs local, sustainable, viable jobs, generating a sustainable, permanent income. Factories don’t do that. What factories, or rather their owners, do is literally a policy of scorched earth. They come in, take as many subsidies as they possibly can (paid for by the local tax payers!), pay as little as they can, and when the “incentives” run out, they leave. An article a few years ago on the policies of Continental AG, the German tyre maker had this little paragraph in it: “According to Continental, the weakening demand for passenger car tyres and the increasing price competition in this market in recent years are two main reasons leading to the closure of the Traiskirchen plant. In addition, and of more general importance, the company is pursuing the strategic goal of producing about 50% of its total output in low-wage countries. This implies a tendency to relocate production from western Europe to eastern Europe.” (http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/eiro/2002/01/inbrief/at0201209n.htm) More recent examples are Peugeot in France, taking 4Billion € worth of subsidies of the French government (= tax payer) and subsequently closing 2 factories with the loss of 8000 jobs. Or Renault, the other French state owned car maker recently opening a 400.000 unit a year manufacturing plant in Morocco. Why, it’s cheaper. Factories are the most exploitative expression of the dying era of “industrialism”. And they do not just exploit the people working in the factory.
    The whole area in which it operates is held to ransom because of the sheer numbers of so called “jobs” the factory generates in the area. Factory work is not a job, it’s a very simple and highly effective means controlling people by holding them to ransom with their “income”. Factories demand total loyalty and give none. History repeats itself time and time again, factories come and go and leave a totally devastated community behind.
    What the Greeks and the Greek government need to realise, is that the country needs to radically rethink the concept of employment, how it gets paid for, and how this new concept can indeed guarantee a sustainable, permanent income for people.Aand the sooner they do, and come up with a solution, the sooner Greece will indeed be on the road out of the mess it’s in. It’s not a matter of not having the people and the brains to do this, it’s a matter of not having the political will to do a radical overhaul of the country to serve it’s people rather than it’s political puppets and their puppet masters.

  2. “Should employees accept working for peanuts without resistance?”
    Of course not. But when the management can prove that the company doesn’t have the money for increases, it’s simply stupid to strike for months, until a factory is forced into bankruptcy. You don’t create any jobs by ruining businesses! That’s a point the Greek unions have to learn if they don’t want to lose their last members to unemployment.

  3. Oh, so you’re generally against industrialisation? Well, ok, I agree it led to many unsatisfying developments. It’s just that I can’t see how the basic needs of 7 billion people on earth can be met without factories, but maybe that’s only pessimistic me.

    However, why stop there? There’s some people who even think it was a dire mistake that homo sapiens left the trees. What do you think about that?
    😛

  4. Source for the statement above:

    Adams, Douglas N., MA, 1979:
    “Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans.”

  5. Well, given some of the “accomplishments” of homo sapiens, there is indeed something to be said for chasing a lot of them back up the trees, especially those who can’t (won’t?) read properly…
    When I say Greece does not need factories, I make it very clear further on that what I am talking about is factories as we know them, or rather, knew them. They are indeed exploitatieve control systems, holding people prisoner to a set of rules that do not serve those working them. The result of this archaic system is visible everywhere in Europe, not just Greece. And Trade Unions, by the way, use the very same exploitative measures for their own purposes.
    When Dell decided to close down their “facility” in Limerick city in Ireland, to move it to Poland because of cheaper wages, they did not only leave over 10,000 immediate employees out of work, they also killed off thousands of auxilary jobs, developed by people supplying this factory with everything from office supplies to food to cleaners, you name it. And that is the very big danger with factories that will “supply the jobs”. It’s a falacy. Factories don’t supply jobs, their owners temporarily hold a community hostage until they find somewhere else where they can make more profit.
    What I also said is the Greece and everywhere else needs a complete re-think of what the concept of “employment” means, what the concept of “renumeration” means, and that emphasis must be placed on sustainability rather than the quick buck for the factory owning capitalist who demands complete, unquestioning loyalty, but gives none.
    And what this really means is back to the drawing board in terms of education. We must STOP seeing education as a job-training, we must STOP trying to out-guess what the next big thing will be so that our Universities and Colleges can train up enough human fodder to feed the frenzy.
    We must STOP seeing a student as an empty vessel to be filled with whatever “knowledge” happens to be the flavour of the month. We must see children and students for what they are, human beings with their very own, unique qualities and use education as the means to allow them to develop who they are instead of using it as a tool to mould them into whatever happens to fit the current industrial model. And that, by the way, will also immediately take care of the herd mentality currently exploited successfully by both industrialists and Trade Unions, and in both cases to the total detriment of those they are supposed to be employing and supporting. And, because of the situation Greece, Spain, Portugal and many others find themselves in as a country and a society, NOW is the perfect time to do this rethinking. Instead of looking at this a Armageddon in 50 different guises, the current situation actually presents a great opportunity to kick society into the next level of consciousness, with economic activity as if people matter…

  6. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras decided to apply the law.

    At last! But it also means that a lot of people refused to apply the law. Would be a nice start to clean out the stables by firing every one of them at once.
    But it also shows that nothing has changed in Greece. Still the Big Monkey has the power to step in when he deems necessary. And the crooks and criminals can get away with murder if he doesn’t. It only shows that Greece still is a dictatorship under the guise of a democracy.

  7. Might be a tat negative, that post. It does not show in what good mood I am this morning! Suns out for the first time in 1,5 month. Great job yesterday. No work today. And I slept for 12 hours! Live is beautiful! 😀

  8. giaoýrti giaoyrtáki

    7 billions don’t need factories they need something to eat. Factories are only good for the overpopulation of the 1st world that is in corrupt compliance with the patrons and banksters and electing their “democratic” muppets, for all the rest factories are bad cuz they destroy everything.

  9. giaoýrti giaoyrtáki

    The workers occupied their profitable factory that made 30% profits, after they were sacked because they were resisting plans to cut working hours down to 5 hours and wages by 40% and one idea was to produce like in Argentina without the boss. But the boss gots his fingers also in logistics and in resources and a 2nd factory in Volos full of scabs, also scabs tried to storm the factory before Samaras sent his troops.

  10. keeptalkinggreece

    glad to hear at least someone is happy 🙂

  11. Pls check the global population level in the 18th century. That’s the number of people on earth which can make a living with traditional agriculture, hunting and fishing, without the increased efficiency coming from industrially manufactured goods. Fact is, the huge population growth starting in the 19th century was triggered by industrialisation. So, your “back to the stoneage” strategy suffers under the problem that you firstly would have to let more than 6 billions of people starve.

  12. Some interesting ideas, but they all suffer from ignoring the consequences of globalisation. Viertually no nation is an economic island nowadays, and only a handful of the very big ones could manage to be self sufficient, independent from the rest of the world. As long as we can’t implement a better system on a global scale, we’re stuck with trying to improve the current one with very small steps, sorry.

  13. Ain’t it true that the payment cut would largely come from a reduction of working hours? So that the hourly wage wouldn’t actually change that much? Well, such a strategy of temprorarily reducing working hours is totally common in Germany, you may have heard of the phrase “Kurzarbeit”. The idea is to preserve a maximum number of jobs until the economy grows again. German unions have agreed to such deals at a time of recession repeatedly, most commonly the workers’ committee (Betriebsrat) at Volkswagen. But, of course, for a Greek communist union this isn’t good enough, they want the impossible, and don’t hesitate to strike until a company is ruined. Nutcases.

    As for the alleged 30% profit margin – well, I wouldn’t trust a communist telling me the time of the day. They routinely lie in order to advance their interests. Read more about this in the classic documentary “Die Revolution entläßt ihre Kinder” (‘The revolution discards its children’) by former communist Wofgang Leonhard.

  14. giaoýrti giaoyrtáki

    That might work in Germany but not in Greece without a welfare system and this company isn’t the only company in Greece that uses the reduction of wages for reasons of “competition” or the crisis in general by not paying at all to increase their profits.

  15. giaoýrti giaoyrtáki

    Hunger today is the result of the multinationals that steal the land of the people and force them to be refugees or work in sweatshops.

  16. A 10,000 mile walk starts with 1 step….
    You don’t need to think global, that is one of the major contributing factors to the mess we are in. Self sufficiency is a matter of need, not a matter of opinion. Of course Volkswage is going to tell you you can’t possibly do without their car, but guess what, you can. And you don’t need that plastic replica of the Eiffel tower, or the barbie doll you daughter so desperately “needs”, and most of the other shite you are told you need.
    It does however require unplugging and reprogramming of brain. Something most people are not willing to consider, leave alone do. But the way things are going, they will have to, like it or not.
    Here’s a really nice reference for you

    http://ebookee.org/Small-is-Beautiful-Economics-as-if-People-Mattered_1070285.html
    “Small Is Beautiful is Oxford-trained economist E. F. Schumacher’s classic call for the end of excessive consumption. Schumacher inspired such movements as “Buy Locally” and “Fair Trade,” while voicing strong opposition to “casino capitalism” and wasteful corporate behemoths. Named one of the Times Literary Supplement’s 100 Most Influential Books Since World War II, Small Is Beautiful presents eminently logical arguments for building our economies around the needs of communities, not corporations.”

    And here’s another one:

    Pedagogy fo the Oppressed, Paulo Freire. A bit hard to find, but more than worht the effort!