After nine months of constant strikes, the owners of Greek Steelworks SA have announced that they can no longer maintain the inoperative plant in Aspropyrgos and will close it completely. The steel plant has been under workers’ occupation since the end of last year, as the employees refused to accept the reductions in working hours and wages. Although employers and employees were in constant negotiations, they have failed to reach an agreement and the industrial unit in the area of Attica will finally stop operating next week.
The management of Greek Steelworks SA warned early in the year that 2011 was one of the worst years the company had experienced. Domestic demand recorded a historic decline in the fourth year of the Greek economic crisis. Exports collapsed too mainly due to a loss of competitiveness. The main problem, as employers’ data show, is not wage costs but the high cost of energy for industrial consumers. Fuel excise duties have increased threefold since the beginning of the economic crisis and the price of electricity has become excessively high.
Extreme left political forces strongly supported the strike of workers in the steel company. The chairman of the strike committee Eleni Katavati told Sky Radio that the senior member of SYRIZA Panagiotis Lafazanis supported the blockade of the plant to the end. He said the workers’ move to keep the plant closed until the employers agreed to meet the demands of employees was right. The general secretary of the Communist Party of Greece Aleka Papariga said this week that workers were right and the strike issue should be resolved at a trilateral meeting between the enterprise's management, the employees and the responsible Minister.
Such trilateral meetings have taken place in the past, but yielded no results. The decision to close the plant in Aspropyrgos seems final and there is no turning back. Greek Steelworks SA has another factory in the city of Volos. The workers there accepted some of the cuts imposed last year and the plant is still operating.