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Αthens: Shipyard Workers Storm National Defense Ministry (videos)

“They broke a flower pot, ” says the reporter of private Skai TV and the magazine presenter Popi Tsapanidou comments “What are you talking about? … they broke a flower pot! … they entered the national defence ministry!”. Unprecedented scenes are taking place right before our eyes on live link as workers at Skaramangas shipyards scrolled up with bare hands  the security roll-blinders of the National Defence Ministry and entered the yard seeking to meet the minister.

 Video: protesters open their way to Defence ministry

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As some dozens protesters were reaching the main entrance of the ministry, a single policeman was trying to convince them to step back. A second policeman came to his aid after a while. The miliraty police had apparently no order to proceed against civilians.

Some tear gas was fired to clam down the angry workers.

A riot police squad arrived on the spot almost twenty minutes later.

The workers are still inside the yard of the ministry.

Video: clashes between riot police & protesters in DefMin yard

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Tear gas was fired, water cannons hurled water and one person was injured by the police when protesters clashed with riot police. Two more workers were taken to hospital due to respiratory problems from the tear gas and one protester has been detained.

450 workers gathered on Thursday morning outside the National Defence Ministry in Athens to protest that they have not been paid for more than 6 months and about the rotating work of one day per week.

With the political leadership of the ministry absent, the Chief of General Staff, Gen. Michalis Kostarakos, he himself personally left his office and went down, grabbed a megaphone and started to talk to angry protesters.

Video: Kostarakos speaks to angry protesters

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Protesters told the media, that “they have been cheated by the political leadership with several promises that never come true and thus on a daily basis” and that they demand their money.

What do private company workers want from the Defence Ministry?

The management of Skaramangas Shipyards wants two submarine-contracts from the Navy in order to keep the shipyard open and give work to workers. (Skai TV)

 According to information of KTG, Skaramangas Shipyards has already built the two submarines however the project has not been concluded yet. The company has not received payments for the project that has a total cost of 1 billion euro. The Finance Ministry seems to have ‘frozen’ the project. Due to lack of money? Because the Troika wants cuts in the defence? There are several rumors about the whole issue…

With the project frozen, the workers are up in arms and the submarines are getting rotten in the shipyard…

As of 11:24  a.m. Kostarakos tells the protesters to leave the ministry premises, deputy defence minister Elefsiniotis (ex Navy chief) is due to meet a workers’ delegation.

11:44 am

More protesters have been detained – tension still high – workers’ delegation has not met with deputy Defence Minister yet.

11:46 a.m.

Background info:

Defence Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos is absent as he has to attend the celebrations of “100 Years of Greek Navy”, taking place some 8 km away in Palio Faliro, a suburb of south Athens.

There are questions as to why the police did not secure the Defence Ministry as it was known that the protest was scheduled for 10 am Thursday morning.

12:16 pm

Some 30 protesters are been held in police buses.

No delegation has met with the political leadership of the ministry yet.

 worker gets first aid by other protesters

12:45 pm

All protesters left the Defence Ministry.

About 100 of them were taken with buses to the headquarters of Greek police.

The rest is moving to police HQs to demand the release of their colleagues.

02:03 pm

Clashes between protesters and riot police outside the Headquarters of Greek police.  Greek media report that the protesters attacked a police squad with sticks and threw plastic bottles at police, also threw fireworks at police HQs entrance. Police fired teargas.

Outside the HQs have gathered colleagues of the detained protesters, colleagues from another shipyard, protesitng members of public and private sector unions ADEDY and GSEE. Unconfirmed information claim that also protesting doctors and personnel of state hospitals would join the crowd.

Protesters outside the police demand the release of the detained.

GSEE president said that 60 protesters have been detained.

03:29 pm

Protesters are still outside police headquarters. Chairmen of other unions have joined the crowd.

Meanwhile, there seems to be criticism to the direction of police that apparently ‘miscalculated’ the risks of shipyards workers’ protest and the officer sin charge outside the Defence Ministry did not call for support on time.

According to Greek media, there was an appointment scheduled for 10 am this morning between one debuty Defence Minister and the workers.

I didn’t hear why the appointment did not take place and the situation got out of control.

Video: Earlier outside the police HQs

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 07:15 pm

Protesters remain outside the Police HQs.

Minister of Citizen Protection Nikos Dendias suspended the police officer charged with the security of Defence Ministry. An internal investigation has been launched.

Some Greek media report, that Dendias asked Defence Minister Panagiotopoulos to proceed to some ‘investigation’ as well -apparently to have some officers suspended as well.

The president of the shipyard workers unions – still in detention at police headquarters – told Skai TV per mobile phone, that they had an appointment with deputy Defence Minister this  morning, that they had given the delegation names’ to the soldiers at the gate and were waiting to go through. “We had been waiting for more thna half an hour, I don’t know…. suddenly the crowd started to scroll up the roll-blinders.”

The majority of the 106 detained has been released. 15 will have to appear before the prosecutor and face charges.

 

 

 

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16 comments

  1. Great reporting KTG.

    You are on my look-everyday list, and your fast english language reporting of events in Greece is invaluable in giving some idea of what is going on.

    Thank you.

  2. keeptalkinggreece

    thanks (*blush*)

  3. “They broke a flower pot!”

    Not as dramatic and historic as ‘Molon Labe’, isn’t it? So this can not be the beginning of the revolution… 😉
    But serious: when the political leadership let’s the Chief of General Staff walk out and confront and talk to demonstrators instead of doing that themselves, a country is in deep, deep trouble.
    One positive factor might be that, although born in Thessaloniki, General Kostarakos originates from Lakonia. From Kotronas, Mani to be precise. So, he won’t buckle under stress. Unlike his political bosses.

  4. keeptalkinggreece

    in some countries revolutions started with carnations … however I believe that at no point the protesters’intention was to stage a revolution or damage the yard decoration of the DefMin. The material damage was intentionally caused due to the heat of the moment. of curse, next year, we could read in some newspaper, how the protesters averted a coup d’ etat orchestrated by flower pots.

    Kostarakos from Kotronas? It sounds quite rocky…

  5. Rocky? Yes, you are right. But what about these! http://youtu.be/jotsFVJPHIk

  6. keeptalkinggreece

    that’s not bad either

  7. Yep, would love to go to SF right now. Autumn there has started. Golden colors all around… And so far away from guys like Venizelos and Samaras and Greek civil servants. 😉

  8. Private company employees have attempted to “besiege” the Greek Ministry of National Defense over a salary dispute with their employers. WOW!! Nevertheless, the situation in the SS (Skaramanga Shipyards) is dire. The employees have only been allowed to work one day per week and haven’t be paid for six months. The Greek government hasn’t paid the ADMG(Abu Dhabi Mar Group), the company owning SS, more than €75 million for the completion of three new U-214 AIP type submarines and one modernized U-209/1200 AIP type submarine. In the fall of 2010 the government ordered two more U-214 AIP type submarines but didn’t pay ADMG enough money to initiate the construction of the subs. Furthermore, the European Commission has allowed the SS to do business only with the HN(Hellenic Navy), penalizing it for having accepted illegal government subsidies. Moreover, the troika is hard pressing Greece to further reduce its military budget. So far, the appointments of special commissions and of a special coordinator to deal with the issue, produced no results.

    Perhaps, the separation of the company’s commercial division from its military division seems to be one pragmatic solution to the problem. Assuming that there’s no legal constraints, the subsequent merger of the SS commercial vessels division with other Greek shipyards could ensure its viability. The military vessels division of the Skaramanga Shipyards could then repair, modernize and construct new surface warships and submarines exclusively for the HN. It’s more likely though that the impasse will continue at least until Greece gets the € 31.5 billion loan tranche.

  9. keeptalkinggreece

    thanks for the background info which unfortunately had no time to do yesterday due the hell going on. But it’s a real WOW when waht-ever interest groups break into the DefMin. It shows that the mechanism collapse.
    I’d add some points here: The ss is penalized from times before the ADMG I think.
    Merge private shipyards SS and ElefsinaS? How will merger them? their onwers?
    But most striking of all is that private businesmmen invest with public money I see also F1 track)
    and from what I know, the freezing of payments has less to do with the bailout tranche but with some other …interests.

  10. …the freezing of payments has less to do with the bailout tranche but with some other …interests.

    That sounds very interesting. Any chance of elaborating on that? Or is it to risky?

  11. keeptalkinggreece

    no chance. sorry.

  12. The Greek government’s strategy is to do its utmost to minimize expenditure in order to get a positive report from the troika. Paying ADMG hundreds of millions of euros for the completion and the construction of six subs, while simultaneously negotiating with the troika cuts in pensions, salaries, benefits and in defense spending, it could jeopardize that strategy.

  13. Don’t blame a guy for trying… Normally I would shout “coward”. But knowing this country and how it’s nomenklatura works and having the biggest respect for you and what you are doing on this blog, I won’t. You are a wise person not to and I am still very curious about who those interests are. 😉