Greece: Athens bus cleaners hold solid 48 hour strike

Workers resist inhuman working conditions and violation of working rights

On Monday 25th and Tuesday 26th April, Athens bus cleaners went took strike action for the second time since the start of 2016. The strike was 100% solid and the attempts of the contractor to use strike breakers failed. The strike was called on three out the seven (in total) major Athens bus depots.

After the end of the 48 hour strike, in the early hours of Wednesday, and with the contractor not having satisfied the demands of the workers, the strikers decided to hold a demonstration in the centre Athens, at 1.30pm. They will march to the central offices of ‘Link Up’, the contractor company.

Xekinima (CWI Greece) is playing a central role in the struggle of the cleaners, with members in amongst both the bus workers and the cleaners.

Below we reproduce excerpts from an article from the Xekinima website explaining the reasons for the strike and calling for support on the picket lines. The pickets were held between 7am to 8.00pm and all through the night until 4.00-5.00 am.

The article has been written by Xekinima members Apostolis Kasimeris (who is elected on the Executive of the bus workers’ union) and Eleni Mitsou, a member of the Executive Committee of Xekinima. Both are intensely involved with the cleaners’ struggle and strike (Translation by Andreas Nikitopoulos).

Xekinima (CWI Greece) Reporters

Support the strike of the Athens Buses’ cleaners

Join the pickets at the bus depots!

Apostolos Kasimeris (Board Member of OASA’s Athens Bus Workers’ Union) and Eleni Mitsou

The Athens Public Transport Organization’s (O.SY.) cleaners will go on a 48-hour strike on Holy Monday 04/25 and on Holy Tuesday 04/26 and need our concrete support by participating and helping to picket the strike.

Once again, the contractor company, LINK UP Integrating Services SA, which is paid by the state to carry out the cleaning of the public transport’s buses, has not paid the cleaners.

The cleaners will go on strike and they demand:

  • payment of all the accrued salaries, bonuses and benefits
  • withdrawal of the decision to lay off co-worker, Siranush Chorekcyan, from the Piraeus bus depot
  • payment of three outstanding salaries from 2013
  • cease and desist the management’s intimidating actions towards the employees
  • compliance with the national general collective labour agreement, the labour law and all the health and safety regulations in the workplaces

Following January’s victorious strike 

A few months ago, starting on January 26 and lasting 10 days, O.SY.’s cleaners at the Elliniko bus depot went on strike, demanding from the contractor company, LINK UP, accrued three months salaries and Christmas bonuses that were never paid to them.

That struggle resulted in a big victory, as the contractor was forced to pay up to 3,000 euros to each striker. This included wages for the days they were on strike, along with the accrued amounts owed to the all the cleaners at all the other bus depots.

Following this, the cleaners at the Elliniko bus depot went ahead with the creation of their own union, SERKA (Cleaning Workers’ Union – CWU). In a short period of time, cleaners from the other depots, as well as former O.SY.’s cleaners that stood by their side during the winter’s struggles, became members of the new union.

Furthermore, cleaners from the Elliniko bus depot, along with their colleagues from the other depots (Liossia, Votanikos and Piraeus) complained formally to the Hellenic Labour Inspectorate about their inhuman working conditions and the violation of their working rights, namely about:

  • Being forced and threatened by dismissal to clean more buses than the contractual number prescribed per individual cleaner e.g. each cleaner has to clean up to 11 articulated buses, whereas they are pressured to clean 13 to 15 and sometimes more
  • Being psychologically pressured, threatened and intimidated by their forewomen at every bus depot
  • The management unilaterally giving paid leave and days-off to active union members (without a formal request from the said employees) in order to keep them away from the workplace
  • Being forced to buy their own protection means (gloves, working clothes and shoes) and cleaning products

Victory for the O.SY.’s cleaners struggle

The cleaners’ union is growing. This time the strike will expand to the bus depots of Votanikos and Liossia, along with a depot in Elliniko, whereas employees from other bus depots will actively participate in the struggle. 

It is beyond doubt that the contractor will not sit idly by and will try to create a strike-breaking mechanism. This makes the defence of the strike by fellow co-workers and comrades absolutely necessary. The strength of the pickets, made up of cleaners and other workers in solidarity, in defence of the strike, like the action that saw off the company’s scabs during the January strike – that is what we have to do, once again!

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April 2016