The struggle continues!
Eleni Mitsou (Xekinima - CWI Greece) and Apostolis Cassimere’s (Board Member of OASA - Athens Bus Workers’ Union)
After many months of struggle, the redundant cleaners at OSY (Athens Bus Company) managed to get the bulk of their accrued money from the company. This is a very important victory which shows that, even in these difficult times in Greece, united and determined struggle can bring results!
The payment of the money owed to the cleaners started the next day after their protest outside Maximou Mansion, the “home of the Prime Minister”. On February 2nd, the cleaners tried to approach Maximou Mansion but were confronted by riot policemen, who did not hesitate to attack them. The cleaners had been on the streets more or less every day since the beginning of November, demanding payment of their wages which by that time were equal to six months. The cleaners were out on struggle even during Christmas holidays, in freezing Athens, with temperatures around 0o C. They were frequently in the mass media, which though controlled by the establishment could not pretend not to see this determined struggle. The government was really cornered over this issue and the attack of the riot police against unpaid and sacked female workers, on 2 February, forced an about turn, as it became main news on many establishment media, not to mention the social media on the internet.
Shortly after the confrontation with the police, a delegation of the cleaners was allowed to meet with C. Vernardakis, Ministry of the State. and his associates. The day after that meeting, the payment of the owed money started and over the next three to four days, each cleaner received 3,000-4,000 euros! The cleaners are still owed between 700 and 1,500 euros.
OSY’s management continues to put up obstacles
The cleaners will continue to fight for full repayment (as well as for their reemployment). Once again they have to deal with the hostility of the management of OSY (appointed by the SYRIZA government) who say that the cleaners have been fully paid. What actually happened is that the company’s CEO, Anagnostopoulos, paid the cleaners on the basis of the information given to him by a mafia-contractor – he refused to consult with the workers themselves. It is worth noting that for months the cleaners could not find the contractor, who abandoned his office and disappeared. But Anagnostopoulos managed to find him, in a matter of hours, meet with him and accepted all the documents concerning the money he gave to him, without consulting the workers.
One year of determined struggle
The cleaners’ struggle began in January 2016, as the contractor company for which they were working, Link Up, left them unpaid for months, did not pay them their legal wages, forced them to clean twice as many buses as was cited by the contract, did not give them protective clothing (gloves, work shoes, etc.) or even adequate cleaning – for months, the buses were “cleaned” with plain water.
The first round of this fight was completed in May 2016 when through mobilizations they managed to get their money owed and better pay, based on the legal minimum wage for hard, all night work – until then the contractor paid 450 euros per month, which is far from the legitimate salary they should get, i.e. around 650 euros monthly.
The second round of the cleaners’ struggle concerned the adoption of legislation allowing direct contracts with the company and expulsion of the contractors. Many of the cleaners have worked for 10, 15, up to 23 years in a row, passing from one contractor to another and not having any of the rights of fellow drivers, technicians, guards etc. employed directly by OSY, have.
Last August (2016) and again during the autumn, two bills were passed that allowed OSY to conclude direct contracts with the cleaners and to prosecute contractors. The abovementioned laws do not ensure permanent and stable employment but still they are an important step for the cleaners, which liberate them from the terror, stealing wages and mafia methods of the contractors.
Both the CEO and the chairwoman of OSY did not want to implement any of the above laws to this date. So the cleaners remained under contract with Link Up, who did not pay any wages, until December (when the cleaners were kicked out of job).
“We want our jobs back!”
The payment of the bulk of the money owed is an important victory that fills cleaners with confidence and determination. The third round of this battle, with almost daily protests at government ministries, the parliament buildings and late evening blockades of OSY’s bus stands, has not yet reached its end. The next goal is (apart from the full payment of all the wages owed) to force OSY to proceed to sign direct contracts with the cleaners, and to kick out the contractors.
This battle will continue! Victory to the cleaners’ struggle!
Below is media footgage of protests by the Athens' bus cleaners:
Committee for a Workers' International
PO Box 3688, London E11 1YE, Britain
Tel: ++ 44 20 8988 8760, Fax: ++ 44 20 8988 8793
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