• When it rains, it pours…

    by  • 14 May, 2008 • General • 0 Comments

    Remember the strike of the garbage collectors a couple of weeks ago?

    We are slowly entering a period where every non-priviliged Greek will feel the effects of the latest strike where it hurts most: on his diner table and in his (parked out of necessity) car(s). I’m talking of course about the strike of the owners of tanker trucks. As a result of a week long strike Greece is running out of petrol. Without petrol everything you take for granted stops. Supermarkets are not supplied with their wares. Bakeries don’t get their flour. It quickly adds up. Last Saturday I saw long queues of cars blocking various roads to get a minimum of petrol. I was walking on foot. I haven’t touched the car for 5 days now, just in case I need it for emergencies. When I saw the queues I was reminded of pre-fall-of-the-Berlin-Wall Eastern Europe. Is this the progress Greece has made in all those years of joining the European Union? I went to the supermarket today to get some milk and coffee. People were pushing out trolleys filled to the rim and far beyond. One woman was trying to maneuver two trolleys, both of them overflowing with dried and deep frozen edibles. Are they expecting a Third World War?

    I learned today that the road haulage rates as applied by those truckers is controlled by the government. WTF? I though we were living in a free market economy where the price of such services was regulated by demand and supply rules. Looks like I still have to learn a thing or two about this country. Anyway, the truckers want to raise the fare by 13 percent, the government offers 5 percent, citing an inflation figure of 3 percent, and doesn’t budge. Stalemate. Strike. Paralysis.

    At the same time we had another group of owners of heavy goods vehicles striking, possibly for the same reasons — but I didn’t pay attention, one tends to get a little bit weary over these continuous strikes — causing tons of goods waiting at ports and custom posts, with several perishable goods completely wasted. The farmers were not amused. Last Saturday it came to a clash here at the port of Iraklio when unionized truckers tried to prevent a few dozen lorries with fresh produce from boarding the ferry to Piraeas. I went there this morning to pay a parking fine and everything seemed to have returned to normal.

    Taxi drivers joined the merry club of strikers on Monday, also demanding higher fare increases than those allowed by the government. That went over rather smoothly, at least in this corner of the country.

    But it doesn’t end there…

    Yet another union — or several of them — is calling for its members to go on yet another 24-hour strike tomorrow, Thursday. This time it is in reaction to the privatization of the public sector. Specifically targeted are OTE (the formerly state owned telecoms operator) and the ports of Thessaloniki and Piraeas. And that’s just the first step, these parasites defenders of the public interest have told us. Also involved (but only for a 3-hour work stoppage, just for laughs, hahaha, they don’t mean it) are PPC (the power supply company), ELTA (the post offices), Olympic Airlines and the Athens Water Supply & Sewerage Company. Oh, and before I forget, the union of propeller aircraft pilots have been on strike for some time now, necessitating the cancellation of a number of domestic flights.

    Simultaneously, 10 banks will close all offices and hospital doctors are staging a 48-hour strike (the umpteenth) as of today. Don’t even ask why.

    This year’s strikes in Greece strike me (pun intended) as not as much economically motivated as politically.

    The evolving political landscape in Greece such as the internal division of the socialist party, PASOK (center left, in opposition after reigning for close to 20 years), has strenghtened both the more extreme Right and Left, and the Nea Demokratia (center right) government has gained an additional momentum due to the recent developments. To cut down the momentum of the right, the leftists have been effing about everything with organized strikes in just about every sector, on a weekly rotation. But the government is playing the game pretty good, and — at least at the surface — always remains open for dialogue and negotiations. It’s part of the game who will take the most PASOK voters. Nea Demokratia is doing pretty good in this game up till now, and has been “drafting” ex-socialists as a result. In response, the Left has been paralyzing pretty much everything in order to damage the government’s image and stop the exodus.

    The unions in Greece always have had a big impact. They should be careful though, not be caught abusing their effect, and lose their privileges, because many many Greeks are way too much fed up with this, especially after this year. Even some of the most hardened socialists and vowed unionists are expressing discontent and frustration towards the unions. I know I have been a socialist for most of my life, but when people who are not accountable to anybody manage to hold a whole country hostage for months on end, well, it makes me reconsider my allegiance..

    If you’re all packed for a relaxing holiday in Greece, you’ve been forewarned. As your pilot will possibly tell you, “there might be some turbulence”…

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