The nine-month strike by factory workers at Greek Steelworks SA is coming to an end. This became clear after the meeting of the factory's trade union organization with Minister of Employment Yiannis Vroutsis. "We want the government to withdraw the police presence at the factory. We want the enterprise's management to appoint 40 of the 120 workers dismissed in 2011, as well as to provide a timeframe for when they can return the rest of the employees to work. If these conditions are fulfilled, we are ready to stop the strike", said after the meeting the trade union's chairman George Sifonios. The requirements of the strikers are quite modest compared to the ones they had at the beginning of the strike last October. The mood of the strikers was especially depressed after the meeting in the Ministry and, unlike on previous occasions, protesters lacked the typical fighting spirit. "We are trying to find a common way, which will lead to a solution of the problem", said a union representative for GRReporter.
The minister heard the employees' requirements, but declined to give specific answers. According to unionists, Vroutsis said that the withdrawal of the police units to combat civil unrest doesn't depend on him, and that this decision has to be coordinated with members of the Council of Ministers. Regarding the appointments, the Minister said that he would contact the factory management in order to reach to a decision. A response to the requests is expected in the late hours of Friday evening and on Saturday the union will hold a general meeting to take a final decision on whether the strike will continue or if it will be terminated. Greek Steelworks SA is already operating with a reduced staff of 100 people. They are working in four shifts of 25 who are preparing the plant to operate at 100%. Familiar with the problems of the steel plant near Athens he commented that the long-lasting protest is coming to an end. The trade union's movement weakened after the factory opened following the intervention of the Prime Minister. Much of the production was transferred to the division of the company in the city of Volos, and Athens workers are facing the dilemma of whether to accept reduced working hours or to lose their jobs completely.
Meanwhile, members of the supervisory Troika from the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank held a meeting with the union of employees in the private sector GSEE. "We agreed with the Troika that we cannot reach any consensus", said after the meeting the President of the organization Yiannis Panagopoulos. He accused the supervisors of incompetence and said that if they were civil servants, they should have been fired because of the complete failure to rectify Greece's economy. "Their programme failed, since they led the Greek economy to a deep recession. They created huge problems in society and increased unemployment", said an angry unionist after the talks with the creditors. He said that workers' organizations will not accept the coming cuts and promised active protests in September along with the start of the annual Thessaloniki Trade Fair. Whether the Greek trade unionists like it or not, the fact that Greece is still spending more than it is producing, remains. The cuts in salaries of civil servants, the closure of unproductive plants and the reduction of costs for social assistance and health services are also unavoidable.
According to a poll by Eurobarometer, the greatest concern of the Greeks now is the financial situation of the country. 66% of the respondents said that the reorganization of the local economy is the most important issue for them. Second, with 57%, ranks the problem of unemployment. After three years of a half-way fiscal consolidation, Greece's public expenditures remain higher than its revenues, despite the constant tax increases. The heavy public administration, which remains fundamentally ineffective, is sustained by the private sector. "There are young and capable professionals in Greece's public administration, who give good results, but who aren't given the opportunity to carry out their full potential", commented a Greek economic analyst. Brussels warns that European countries will not tolerate more errors in the implementation of the obligations under the contract for financial assistance. The government has one month until the leaders of the supervisory mission return to see specific results. It remains to be seen whether the government will take more bold actions and whether trade unions will manage to block structural reforms.