After a three-month hush, Athens has again become the scene of social protests, albeit weak. The participation in the meeting and procession organized today by the federation of employees in the restaurant business and the tourism industry within the announced 24-hour strike was low.
The participants gathered at the beginning of the pedestrian street Dionisiou Areopagitou at the foot of the Acropolis. They were holding posters with their demands, which were no cuts in salaries and signing a new collective agreement, as the current one will expire on 18 July.
"We cannot allow new employees to begin working with such low salaries," said Nikos Papageorgiou from the board of the federation. According to him, Greece is losing jobs because many employers prefer to hire staff from neighbouring countries "such as Bulgaria and Romania" in the form of training and at a very low payment. "Another problem is that many colleagues are under pressure to work without social and health security," he said.
Then, the participants in the protest set off to the Ministry of Employment. Although they did not occupy the entire street but only one lane, they still managed to block the traffic several times, thus causing discontent among the drivers who were waiting at the traffic lights.
A van with large loudspeakers, from which slogans were echoing, was leading the procession. The participants walking behind it were repeating them rhythmically. Their content made it clear that the majority of them were members of the trade union organization of the Communist Party PAME. Indicative of this was the presence of many elderly people who were there most likely to support the protest.
And because the federation chose one of the hottest summer days, when Athens welcomes thousands of tourists, the protest quite naturally became a kind of attraction to foreign visitors riding in a coach.
The procession passed before the Parliament and Panepistimiou Street, where citizens waiting at bus stops were shaking their heads displeased at the sight of protesters. When they reached the Ministry, the participants were arranged on the sidewalk opposite the building and later, Minister of Employment Yiannis Vroutsis received a delegation of the heads of the associations of employees in several central hotels in Athens.
They presented their demands to the Minister, with whom they expect to meet again next week. Then, the procession went to the nearby office of the association of hotels in the Attica region. Trade unionists warned their employers that they were preparing various protests for if their demands were not met. As the trade union reported, a new 48-hour strike will take place on 10 and 11 July and other protests are likely to be organized by that time.
So far, it is unclear how many people took part in the strike at a national level but not a significant number is expected given that Athens hotels, restaurants, cafes and all types of establishments were serving their customers as on any other day.
Tags: SocietyStrikeProcessionRestaurant and hotel employeesCollective labour agreementTrade unionists
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