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The strike of the workers in the Hellenic Steel Company has been going on for 65 days already

03 January 2012 / 18:01:47  GRReporter
4577 reads

Victoria Mindova


The strike of the workers in the Hellenic Steel Company has been going on for 65 days already and the outlook is that it will not end soon. This became clear after the third fruitless meeting of the trade union of the employees in the company of its management in the presence of representatives of the Ministry of Employment and Social Security. The three parties met in order to find a solution for the gridlock, which they have fallen into for more than two months already.

The management of the company insists on cutting the working hours and wages of employees due to the economic crisis. Workers in turn refuse to accept the changes because they think the company is profitable and the management is taking advantage of the possibilities provided by the liberalization of the labour market to increase its profits at the expense of the employees and the job security in factories. The Ministry of Labour is trying to play the role of a buffer in the negotiations between both sides, but so far their efforts are not crowned with success.

"We began the strike after the management of the company said it wants to reduce our working hours to a five-hour working day and pay us a monthly salary of 500-600 euro," said Panagiotis Papanikolaou (who has been a crane operator in the factories of the "Hellenic Steel Company" for 28 years) exclusively for GRReporter. He explained that the job that workers do in the steelworks is very tough and salary reductions will put employees on the edge of financial survival.

400 workers are employed at the steel plant in Aspropyrgos. "Hellenic Steel Company" SA also has a second plant for the extraction and processing of steel in Volos. In the early autumn of 2011 its workers accepted the reductions in the working hours and wages, against which their colleagues in Aspropyrgos are striking. "When we refused to accept the new conditions, the management started to fire people. They wanted to intimidate us. They fired 50 people, mainly young ones to whom they did not have to pay large amounts as compensations," explained the crane operator. The trade union of the workers at the Aspropyrgos factory decided to go to Volos and try to attract workers there to join their strike. It is not yet clear whether there efforts will have any result.

Strikers explain that the decision to reduce wages is not the result of a decline in purchases, nor is the volume of work less. Lay-offs were initiated after the Ministry of Labour allowed for more flexible employment arrangements in Greece beyond the framework of the collective labour agreement for the sector. According to some of the participants in the protest it is more lucrative for the company to have two employees working a five-hour day with a lower wage than having one employee working an eight-hour day, who should be paid, if necessary, extra money for overtime work done.

In turn, steel companies in Greece have announced that the year 2011 was one of the hardest years, they have seen so far and prospects for 2012 are even bleaker. The local market is almost dead, as they say in the industry and exports have begun to slow. The greatest problem, according to experts, is not the cost of wages but the high cost of energy for industrial users, which is needed for the production process. Fuel taxes have increased at least three times since the outburst of the economic crisis in Greece, and the price of electricity is increasing at an even greater pace. This makes Greek steel uncompetitive on the foreign markets and seriously threatens the survival of whole units, according to employers in the steel industry.

Tags: companies society strike steel industry Hellenic Steel Company SA
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