Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

On strike: A quintessential part of Greek life

There are four things a resident of Greece can count on: Bureaucracy, delays, death and strikes.*

Strikes do not paralyze or cripple the country, as media often claim, but are merely additional annoyances to navigate. Not all of them are about protesting something, as some are staged in support, but they’re almost always about money. Most people I surveyed see it purely as an opportunity for a day off, since demands are rarely met.

This week, there are four strikes:

Tuesday: College (TEI) professors will be on a 24-hour strike to protest pay and working conditions;

Wednesday: Taxi drivers for 24 hours to support the fare increase beyond the rate of inflation; lawyers to protest proposed pension changes;

Thursday: Municipal workers from 11:00 a.m. over wage increase demands.

Everyone should adjust their lives accordingly. 🙂

* Taxes is not on the list of “sure things,” due to successful dodging and many people’s wages not being high enough, which makes them exempt.

G700 anti-strike against the Athens metro

For years, Athenians have made it clear that an extension of hours beyond midnight were indeed wanted and necessary on both the metro and electrikos, especially on Friday and Saturday nights when more people are out. It’s not only common for large cities to extend mass transport hours every day of the week, but it’s also good for the economy and environment.

The Transport Ministry and metro authorities finally (and reluctantly) conceded to a “trial” extension of 2 months starting February 1st and agreed to pay an extra 200,000 euros/month in overtime. Almost immediately, unionist interest groups blocked the move, and workers followed suit in a knee-jerk reaction claiming extended hours now pose a “safety risk” — NY and Paris are at risk every day, if that’s the case — though it appears that the trial might go forward.

In response, G700: Generation 700 euros has launched an anti-strike asking people to gather on February 9th from 12 midnight to 2:00 a.m. at Syntagma metro station in protest. (If you cannot read their site in Greek, here’s a translation in English).

Why is this their concern? Because with the price of taxi fare and other expenses on the rise, and salaries remaining low, people who cannot afford cars or choose not to drink and drive will be deprived of safe affordable transport. Going out is increasingly becoming a rich man’s activity. More than that, wealthy union bosses should not be allowed to hold a city or country hostage.


Hat tip to SS for alerting me of G700’s anti-strike to extend this post.
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  The Scorpion wrote @ February 5th, 2008 at 15:57

Great article. my thoughts… Why don’t they do like the US and allow the people to protest only in designated areas. I remember once that President Bush didn’t allow the protestors to get within a certain number of miles of some important meeting that he was going to. But they did allow the protestors to protest in a field far away from everyone.

Couldn’t they do that in Greece. Give all the protestors a big empty lot away from Athens and they could do all their strikes and protests there. It wouldn’t inconvenience any of the rest of us, but still would give them their rights to demonstrate. Maybe the old Olympic venues could provide a nice location for protests? Just not Athens!

On a side note, I noticed all the mourners from Christodoulos’ funeral on TV and it seemed like they were ready to protest about something. I mean they were already in Athens, couldn’t they think of a reason to protest? There must have been something they could have protested since they were already assembled downtown?

  graffic wrote @ February 5th, 2008 at 19:51

Yeah, the “oppressed” ones. I’m quite sure they need what they demand (lol).

TEI teachers, who work a lot and are very professional. They are committed to their students, and their quality standards are really high.

Lawyers… should I say something about these ones? (They’re not guilty, the justice system created them).

Municipal workers deserve more money because the price of the tiropita has increased. And what is a good break without a tiropita?. (Tiropita makers should go on strike too).

Unionist groups. Politicians should join them to learn what a place without corruption and bribes is like. They always fight for the rights of the poor workers.

I’m doing my best at jokes.

Taxi drivers… they deserve an increase, but if they raise prices beyond the inflation rate, the raises will never end.

BTW: I got no pay raise and I had to ask for my time/money back after working on weekends (It was like I was asking for a favour). So..

I’m on strike! No more overtime for free during the week 😀

About going out at night, in Spain we have Botellón. The idea is very simple: instead of paying 7 euros for a drink, pay 11 for the bottle (if you like to drink of course). Use public places to gather with your friends and enjoy talking (and drinking if you do).

  FMS wrote @ February 5th, 2008 at 22:01

There seems to be a general rule in Greece about protests and strikes: whoever is asking for something has no moral right or need for it; and whatever they are protesting about is either a very good idea or otherwise is one of the least important problems in Greece. I am all for the right to protest, but when it is consistently and conscientiously abused by special interest groups, it becomes a public health hazard. It can join the piles of rubbish in the street as one of the delights of Greece.

  Elundin wrote @ March 11th, 2008 at 10:37

How about participating in these protests instead of complaining about them? I bet every one of you posting on this board are unhappy about ecomonic developments in our country. The only way to express our opposition would be protesting on the streets. There is no way out, it is our moral obligation to make a stand, as things are at this time. This has nothing to do with communism, or left wing opposition or whatever else. This is getting way out of hand, and we *need* to get out on the streets and express our sentiments.

Wake up people, noone listens to us, so we will just have to shout louder and louder until they do.

  Kat wrote @ March 11th, 2008 at 17:53

The S – Don’t you think that a protest is supposed to disrupt and inconvenience people as part of making a point and making someone’s absence or presence felt? I think so. It’s laughable when protests in the USA had to be pre-scheduled with police and staged in a location far away or at least out of proximity from the event. Although in Athens’ case, it might indeed be a good use of old Olympic venues since (if you remember) some meetings such as the G8 back in 2002 caused the entire city to shut down for security purposes. No buses, no trains, no cars, no foot traffic in certain areas — makes it difficult to go to work when your boss threatens to fire you or dock your pay.

About the funeral, I think they were having trouble enough with keeping the man on his gun carriage. At some point, I heard it looked like his body was going to fall off.

G – LOL! You make me laugh, especially the part about the tiropita makers. Certainly they deserve better conditions!

After two years working for my boss, he agreed this year (not last) to give me the minimum raise required on paper, but this works out to be nothing in my pocket because it turns out he’s been claiming my salary as lower to IKA to avoid higher payments to them. He still feels that it’s not necessary since I should be getting money from my fiance; my productivity and his profits from it have no bearing on my salary.

M – There are a lot of good ideas, but implementation is quite another thing, isn’t it? I generally don’t think a one-day strike in Athens or anywhere else in GR is a serious threat. It’s only when it goes on for days or weeks that people mean business and real attention is paid. i.e. A garbage collection strike in summer or banks refusing to open for months, thus depriving people of OAED and IKA payments.

E – A few of us have helped organize, then participated in protests that concern us (see past articles), so please watch what you say. Some us will never collect a pension in GR and don’t attend university here, and therefore don’t care. Most of us have enough sense to understand that protesting isn’t going to do a whole lot in rooting out corruption, which is at the core of economic instability and lack of development; you even said in your comment that “no one listens.” Some of us are immigrants with a lower standing than you (a Greek), and the govt unfortunately doesn’t give a rat’s ass what we think.

In my defense, your comment does say “every one of you posting on this board,” thus giving the impression you are singling us out and not speaking generally as you said when you wrote back. However, I apologize for any misunderstanding and hope you’ll continue to comment whenever you like.

  The Scorpion wrote @ March 12th, 2008 at 09:06

As one of my old American friends here says, “Why should the needs of a few thousand strikers inconvenience the needs of a few million trying to get to work and live their lives without hassle”. Protests are fine, but once you inconvenience me, that’s too much.

Having them in a field out of sight or traffic won’t inconvenience the millions, but could very likely inconvenience the thousands protesting. But, then again, I don’t see a problem with that.

But, hey, I’m not fond of strikes in general, so I suppose I’m the odd ball. 🙂

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