Eyewitness Account Greek Hauliers on Indefinite Strike Against IMF Decrees
On 8 September Greek hauliers held a truckers’ march into the centre of Athens with their horns blowing. They were reacting to the decision of the Minister of Transport two days earlier that he has reneged on an agreement made to end the August strike that outlined a transitional period of reforms of the Hauliers terms and conditions of employment. He now insists on the immediate implementation of all the changes without negotiation. As the scene is set for a resurgence of the strike in August we publish here an eye-witness account by V N Gelis of last month’s strike and the role of the union leaders in ending it.
“You are taking our livelihoods not simply our licenses” became the battle cry of 35,000 Greek road hauliers who launched an indefinite strike which lasted a whole week before its sell out by its leaders.
When the hauliers met for their mass meeting in the Peroke Theatre in central Athens their despondent voices were heard from one wall of the theatre to the other. They characteristically wore a black armband and came to hear the President of the Federation of Georgiatos who wanted to tell the crowd the proposal of the Minister Reppas that “dialogue will continue only after the cessation of the strike”. They forced the leaders to continue the strike...
They rejected the government’s plans to open their service up to multinational competition. It was common knowledge that the multinational COSCO which bought the Greek ports on behalf of China asked for 30,000 new licences for transporting goods with Chinese personnel who will be paid a maximum of €300 for their work.
They tried to find a “compromise solution” but their proposals were ignored by the IMF who now essentially run the Ministry of Transport.
The leaders of the union asked for the pensions of hauliers to reach the amazing amount of €680 a month, to allow for three years for the law to be implemented and not backdated to last June, and the implementation of it for all hauliers to be over a five-year period not a three year period as 5,000 hauliers bought their licences recently and the 35% drop in their value will affect them disproportionally.
New licences were bought for around €300,000 a 35% drop will mean they are now currently worth €200,000 but the debt will remain at the amount for which they were bought.
The Minister of Transport Reppas replied with so-called development tax rebates and allowing each driver to take another licence which will not be worth anything anyway. Even if the majority of the Federation wanted to announce the ending of the strike under these circumstances of a mass meeting with all present, it was impossible as there was nothing on the table.
The KKE’s representative at the Peroke theatre greeted the leadership of the hauliers without raising a single point of difference with the government plan despite being self-labelled as the “class struggle union”
So how did the union leaders get around selling out the strike? Four or five days into the strike after two mass meetings and two large demos to the Parliament – and with trucks also parked on many motorways up and down Greece – the government brought forward an “emergency order” which basically allows the military to act as strikebreakers.
This has only been used once or twice before since 1974 against port workers in order to break their strikes. This was the perfect excuse the union misleaders needed to sell out the strike. Why?
Supermarkets had mass shortages of goods. In two supermarkets I visited they had run out of the basics seven days into the strike. There were many fuel shortages in petrol stations. Hospitals couldn’t get supplies. More importantly the tourist industry was going to get crippled which is Greece’s main earner in the summer months.
Whilst the hauliers appeared on TV stating no one can force them to go to work and they won’t accept the provisions of the “emergency order”. Army conscripts were also heard to voice reservations that they didn't want to act as strikebreakers. This could pose bigger problems for the government in the future as without the army on your side you lose the ability to threaten people.
So sensing this situation could get out of control, where people in other occupations joined this strike against the IMF and its PASOK quislings, the union leaders met behind closed doors one fine Sunday morning and then the media announced the ending of the strike.
A strike was sold out without being actually defeated and it showed it was a spark that could have lit a more general fire, but the union leaders and the parties of the Left were found wanting once more.
Thu 09, September 2010 @ 13:50
Greek Hauliers have started an indefinite strike again. They are alleged to have attacked the president of northern Greece's CBI during the Thessaloniki trade fair. Their sellout president condemned the violence of the Hauliers but not the violence of the riot police who teargassed them.
A video of the event has appeared in this paper.
Sun 12, September 2010 @ 18:48
Hauliers Strike Update...
Blockades have occurred on national motorways and many demos in various cities over the last week.
Lamia was cut totally off in the centre. Different things are occurring in different parts of the country.
Truckdrivers act against the line of the union sellouts.
Much will be decided as to whether people will rally to the autonomous movements of hauliers blockades and whether this will take some organised form or will provisionally go backwards.
Hauliers have started blocking the motorways without a general plan of action. In every blockade autonomous groups are being created under which they decide to go against the official union policy of Tzortatos & Co.
In the Metamorphosis blockade an area on the outskirts of Athens they decided to block both sides of the motorway and at the same time allowed cars to go through the pay tolls by occupying them and allowing them to go through for free.
Truckers have also called for open mass meetings with all the layers of workers and pensioners affected by the IMF measures in the Haidari blockaded which was voted for unanimously. They announced their decision using mobile phones to other truckers around the country, and they want them held at their union offices on Tuesday 12th September 2010
They have also forced scabs to stop working and the one of the union leaders has condemned this via the mass media. Kiousis who owns 35 trucks (and with the ‘liberation’ of the profession will want to acquire more) attacked the strike breakers under the guise of the ‘right to work’. Alongside him was the Hauliers Leader-Tzortatos owner of 17trucks who under pressure of the deranged and corrupted journalists of the IMF mass media, pressurised him to support the strikebreakers.
This evening on SKAI tv it was reported that in 3 blockades they are also proposing in the open mass meeting to be held on Tuesday to have allnight camps outside of Parliament and to call all the people with them and to not leave until victory.
Sun 19, September 2010 @ 17:28
Strikebreakers on this video showing their demobilised trucks after strikers cut off their electrics.
The vote for the 'opening of the professions' one of the IMF imposed measures is going to occur on Wednesday. The KKE hasn't called for any direct support to the Truckers or any of their mobilisations although they are holding a demo outside Parliament on 23rd September when the vote is to go through.
If the truckers march into the centre of Athens with 2,000 trucks as some have stated they will then the situation may go out of control of the union misleaders.
At the same time the President of the Greek CBI has stated that 5,000 containers are blocked at ports all over Greece and much produce may go rotten.
Sun 19, September 2010 @ 19:08
Video of strikers trying to block scabs plus map of all the road blockades around Athens.
Also how the strike is affecting the market with tonnes of stock remaining in the ports
Sun 19, September 2010 @ 19:28