Greece: Athens bus cleaners once again out in struggle

Protest over unpaid wages and for direct employment!

As of today, Athens bus cleaners are in the course for their 5th week of strike and holding daily protests. They have not been paid their wages for the past seven months. The management of the public bus company in Athens, OSY, has been playing a delaying tactic with them. They promise that the cleaners will get their money, with some delay, and that they will be employed through direct contracts with OSY. In other words, that the current contractor boss will be be removed.

After five months of being unpaid, the cleaners and their Union, SERKA, decided enough is enough. After five weeks of daily struggle, strikes, demonstrations, protests outside OSY offices and ministries, the cleaners have now entered their 7th month of being paid no wages. 

OSY now says they cannot do anything about the wages because they are withheld by the bank to whom the contractor owes millions. Therefore if the workers want their money they should go to court. OSY say they will go ahead with the direct employment of the cleaners (i.e. stop employing contractors) but give no guarantee that they will employ the present workforce.

In other words, they refuse to employ the present workers! And the reason for this is clear: these workers have taken to the road of struggle, after decades of super exploitation, and will again demand and struggle for their rights when violated!  All this is taking place under the SYRIZA appointed “left” OSY management!

The social democratic PASOK and  right wing New Democracy party, which created this contractor “system” in the early 1990s, would have nothing “to envy” from SYRIZA, which turned out to be an excellent ‘pupil’.  SYRIZA is doing precisely what these parties would have done: sack current workers, in order to employ their own supporters who will then be intimidated (under threat of being fired) to be obedient so as to provide eternal support to their party and its unions. This is nauseating corruption, with “left” credentials. In the same way the communist party of Greece (KKE) ridiculed the word “communism” and PASOK ridiculed the word “socialism”, SYRIZA now is ridiculing the word “left”.

The cleaners are fighting:

  • Against the mafia of the contractors who are robbing public funds and super exploiting the workforce
  • Against the SYRIZA-appointed management of OSY who fully consciously and cynically provided cover to this rotten system, using every possible means to make sure the struggling cleaning workers are in the end defeated
  • Against the bankers who provided millions of euros of loans to the contractor who used as “guarantee” the future (expected to be received) wages of the workers
  • Against the so called “left” government led by SYRIZA, which was initially elected in January 2015 (i.e. essentially it’s been two years in office) and has not been able to find a “solution” to such a simple problem as regards the payment of the wages and the securing of the jobs of just 140 workers who clean the Athens buses

And the cleaners’ are demanding:

  • To be paid for all the wages they are owed,
  • To be employed directly by the Athens bus company, OSY

Xekinima (Greek section of the CWI) with a strong presence both in the Bus workers’ union and in the cleaning workers’ union will fight this battle, together with the heroic determination of the cleaning workers, to the very end. Together we will expose this rotten, capitulated, corrupt, so-called “left” government of Mr Tripras and his clique, as much as possible, trying to reach every corner of Greece and every country internationally.

Model protest letter:

We the undersigned are shocked to be informed that the cleaning workers of the public Athens Bus Company, OSY, have not been paid their wages for the past seven months and that the OSY management told the workers that if they want their money they should take the contractor to the courts, as they have no way of pressurizing the contractor to pay. 

We are aghast to learn that the contractor has secured loans through the Pireaus Bank in Greece, by using the future wages of the workers as a guarantee. Now the contractor claims to have no money and the bank refuses to pay the workers!

All this indicates to us a completely rotten system which it seems that the present government shows no interest to change. After two years in office, there is no excuse whatsoever for a government that calls itself “left” to allow for such treatment of the poorest and most oppressed section of the working class.

We demand:

  • The immediate payment of the wages of the Athens bus cleaners
  • The removal of the contractor and the direct employment of all the cleaners by OSY

Please send letters of protest to:

OSY Management: ,

SYIZA General Secretary:

Ministry of Transport: ,

Please send also copies to

Union of Athens Cleaners :

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December 2016