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A war between the government and the trade unionists on the media strike

19 February 2013 / 19:02:20  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

A media blackout occurred in Greece on the day of the official visit of the French President François Hollande to Athens. The newscast of radio stations fell silent at 6 am and television channels have been broadcasting old shows and series in pursuance of the decision of the journalists’ union in Athens to hold a 24-hour strike.

Despite the fervent calls of unionists for mass participation in the protest march, no more than 150 people - journalists and technicians, gathered in front of the building of the union on Akadimias Street and a few metres from the parliament. The leadership of the union went down among the protesters to present their reasons for the strike more than an hour after the time set. Their demands are purely professional: to sign a new collective labour agreement, to cancel all layoffs in all media, to restore old pensions, the "cancellation of the unacceptable practice of the government to impose civil mobilization on strikers and the cessation of persecution of trade unionists".

After the speech of the president Dimitris Trimis and several representatives of trade unions of other workers in the media sector, the procession took to the Ministry of Employment. The trade unionists joined hands to form a human chain and shouted slogans that left and far-left protesters shout at every protest, such as, "It is a terror when you are not able to get a job, no peace for the bosses".

The procession did not pass by the parliament because of the visit of the French President but it went along Voukourestiou Street, which is full of expensive boutiques. Minutes later, the protesters were already in front of the Ministry and began to negotiate with the police at the entrance as to how many people would be able to enter to meet with the Minister or his representative.

Today's strike was intended to be the culmination of the rotating strikes in public and national media, which have been going on for two weeks now. Journalists' unions and the Pan-Hellenic Federation of Journalists’ Unions, which unites them, were playing a cat and mouse game with the managements of the media and especially with that of the public broadcaster ERT. Immediately after the court announced the strike by one trade union illegal, the other union immediately announced a new strike.

According to the union leader Dimitris Trimis, ERT's management turned to the journalists’ union and the Pan-Hellenic Federation of Journalists’ Unions asking them to make an exception and cancel the strike of the public television because of the visit of François Hollande. "However, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou had caused ERT's management to turn to the court. By this time, we were ready to discuss the possibility of allowing ERT to work properly to cover the visit. The government's actions, however, have made it clear that its only goal is to stop the strike and we did not agree to give permission".

The tension between the trade unionists and the management of ERT ended in the early afternoon in favour of the latter. "The unprecedented government intervention, which is reflected by the judicial proceedings against the journalists’ union and the Pan-Hellenic Federation of Journalists’ Unions on the occasion of the strike in the media, and the unacceptable and unfair statements of government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou have led to a court decision, which declares illegal the strike of ERT that the Federation held today. Following this decision, the management board cancels the strike actions for today," reads a statement from the Federation. The strike in other media will continue tomorrow morning.

In his "unacceptable", as they were described, statements, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou accused the leadership of journalists’ trade unions of "serving party interests and SYRIZA of planning to cause a news blackout during the visit of French President François Hollande. They not only proved that they have not been interested in the real problems of journalists, but that they do not hesitate to blacken the international image of the country in the name of partisan interests".

The news blackout caused hundreds of reactions in the social media as well. "The journalists’ union declared a strike on Tuesday, when François Hollande arrives in Athens, in protest to his refusal to meet with Alexis Tsipras," wrote a Twitter user. The programme of the French President did not contain a meeting with the opposition leader. François Hollande had refused to meet with Alexis Tsipras during his visit to Paris in the days between the first and the second round of parliamentary elections in Greece in June 2012.

Despite the strike, the electronic media, which are not officially recognized as such by the trade unions, were informing their readers about the visit of the French President as well as about all other events. Meanwhile, the Pan-Hellenic Federation of Journalists’ Unions has announced another strike in ERT for tomorrow, when a nationwide strike with the support of the major trade unions GSEE and ADEDY will take place as well.

Tags: MediaStrikesFrancois Hollande's visitCourtERT
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