Greece: Workers’ victory at Diamant telesales company

Xekinima (CWI) member wins key union position in Athens Municipality sector

A campaign against appalling working conditions and sackings in the telesales company, Diamant, led by Xekinima (CWI) comrades in Thessaloniki, achieved a great success. Under enormous pressure, the employers started to respect Diamant workers’ contracts and their legal rights.

The following is an edited version of the text of a Xekinima leaflet distributed outside a Diamant shop in Thessaloniki:

After the effect of our campaign in relation to the working conditions at Diamant there is a first but very important victory for the company’s workers. The employers were forced to end exhaustive overtime because of the campaign’s pressure and so the atmosphere in the phone centre has changed.

Reactions from inside and outside

The campaign started a week ago (Monday 10 November) with almost daily interventions outside of the company’s store, where a leaflet was distributed and passers-by were informed about the campaign with a megaphone. At the same time, we called for people to send emails to the company and also we moved to a good campaign of publicising the issue to various websites.

We came across many Diamant customers who, when they were informed of the workers’ appalling working conditions, said they would never shop from there again. Generally, people’s response was excellent. They were angry and frustrated when they learnt about the working conditions inside the company.

The extent to which the campaign is known is characteristically shown by the fact that orders were cancelled by the customers who said that they found out on the internet about the working conditions and did not want to have anything to do with “such a company”.

Apart from the campaign outside the store, there was also pressure from the workers within the company, who having being encouraged by our campaign started to demand for their working rights to be respected. The company backed down under the pressures of the campaign

Facing all this pressure, the company had to back down. The many hours of overtime have stopped. The managers ask the workers first “who wants to stay?” before mentioning the 1 hour a day obligatory overtime. Already when asked this question no worker wanted to stay and the phone centre closed exactly after workers’ 8 hour shift. As a result the company’s hours are no more than eight.

This is “a different world” in relation to the situation before. For the company’s workers these are victories that drastically improve their daily lives.

No certainty for the future

However, there is no certainty that this situation will go on forever or even for just the next period. The company’s administration will attempt to bring back the old regime with the first chance they get. These sorts of working conditions are common in phone centres (not just this particular company) and generally in the private sector. The bosses respect nothing in their greedy struggle for bigger profits, especially today when the threat of unemployment is used to try to muzzle opposition, to paralyse workers taking action and when the government is clearly standing by the side of the bosses, so called “corporate paradises” cannot exist they say.

Why we need to be alert!

That’s why we need to be alert! The campaign against the bosses’ arbitrariness towards workers’ contracts and illegal and inhumane working conditions in Diamant will soon come to an end, as the regime inside the company has been improved and those workers that were sacked do not wish to return. But the lessons from the struggle in Diamant are important for the whole movement.

Diamant’s example shows that through our action we can achieve real, specific and material victories. It shows that we can, as workers, by organising ourselves properly, with determination and persistence, limit the employers’ aggressiveness and actions. It shows that we can achieve victories, even in today’s conditions, with a government determined to break the backbone of the workers’ movement, to smash every right and with unemployment at 27% (officially).

Diamant’s example needs to spread. Only this way we can ensure that our victories will not be temporary but permanent.

And all of us that were involved in the Diamant struggle must send a message to the employers that we will be closely watching them in relation to how they behave towards the workers. And that whenever necessary we will again protest outside of the company offices and by social media, with new campaigns and demanding justice and respect for the workers!

Greece: CWI member wins key union position in Athens Municipality sector

Right wing union lose their union representative

Xekinima (CWI Greece) Reporters

The election for the position of union representative of workers in the Organisation of Culture, Sports and Youth in Athens Municipality (OPANDA) took place on 12 November. The election was won by comrade Dionysis Christopoulos (Xekinima – CWI Greece) with 291 votes, while the candidate for the DAKE (union affiliated to the governing right wing New Democracy party), A. Karampampas, received 244 votes (total of 657 votes). This is the first time in this workplace that a union representative from the Left was elected.

Until now, the vast majority of union reps elected were DAKE cadres, who also had managerial positions in some of the services/sectors. Although DAKE mobilised in full its apparatus (managers escorting the workers to the ballot box, DAKE cadre picking up with their vehicles the voters to bring them to the polling station, assembling an electoral commission almost exclusive with DAKE members etc.) in this year’s elections, it did not manage to get the majority necessary so that it could serve for another term as the right hand of the employers in OPANDA.

There was a big turnout in the elections, which were up by 211 votes compared to the last elections in February 2013. This partly has to do with the participation of non-permanent contracted staff workers but also shows the increased interest of OPANDA workers for their representation in the organisation’s board of directors.

As wages are constantly falling, workers’ rights removed, and everyone faces the possibility of being sacked, OPANDA workers realise that the union position now has a much greater importance.

New consciousness

This realisation has to do with the determined role of Dionysis Christopoulos, who held the position of deputy union rep over the last 2 years or so.

Even though in the previous elections Dionysis came second and was the deputy union rep, without right to vote on the board of directors, he attended all meetings, spoke against the anti-workers’ plans of the administration, informing workers about the board’s agenda and decisions, highlighted problems and, when necessary and possible, called on workers to mobilise. Dionysis was also at the forefront of all the Athens’s municipality workers’ struggles over the last years (e.g. the occupation of contract workers in Athens municipality, a massive strike of OPANDA workers, other occupations and strikes, continuous struggle for the defence of equal rights for contract workers etc) and not only active in the musicians union group, where he is president.

On the contrary, A. Karampampas, in the same period, voted in favour of all the positions of the Administration and defended the government’s policies, just as he does in Daphne-Ymittos Council, where he is a councillor with the group supported by right wing New Democracy.

The union election result shows that workers, no matter how exhausted they are by the mass struggles of the last few years, no matter how frustrated they are by the trade unions’ leaderships and disappointed by the leaderships of the main parties of the Left, they can break out of the apparatuses that hold them hostages and can represent workers in the frontline of struggles, without compromising, and with principled determination.

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November 2014