Halyvourgia Steel Plant: Working for Peanuts Amid Deep Recession?

Posted by in Economy

 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.