BY Union of Employees in Postal and Express Service Companies in Attica (SETTEA)   Lately we’ve watched all the circumstances around us change. Τhe veil of crisis is covering every aspect of our lives, professional, social and personal. Particular …

Walton Pantland

BY Union of Employees in Postal and Express Service Companies in Attica (SETTEA)


Lately we’ve watched all the circumstances around us change. Τhe veil of crisis is covering every aspect of our lives, professional, social and personal. Particularly, employees, pensioners and young people are experiencing this change more strongly as they are the ones who are most seriously affected by the imposition of the austerity policies.

Now, exploding unemployment, low paid and precarious work, job rotation, the erosion of benefits in health and education, the new taxes and the dramatic reduction of salaries and pensions are foisted as a necessary sacrifice that must be made in order for “development” to be brought about.

And this sacrifice is inflicted upon them as they are  considered to be responsible for the crisis because they where “well paid” (always compared to other countries that due to different conditions wages of misery are prevailing) and “unproductive” (though the evidence suggest that they work more hours than most other Europeans).

All this effort to shift the cost of the crisis exclusively to employees and pensioners is based on rotten ideologies of the type “we went too far with our promiscuous lifestyle” and “the crisis is an opportunity to turn to previous and purer ways of life, to survive on less and come closer to nature and our fellow man”. This ideological atavism of a “return to the past” is presented as purification from the modern consumerist lifestyle and its consequences.

But of course, for the vast majority of the workers, such a “wicked”, “sinful” and “luxurious” lifestyle that supposedly led us to our present dreadful condition meant only that someone had the opportunity to buy a house with a loan, or to buy a safe car, or to offer vacations to their family or to provide for their children’s foreign language school. For, it wasn’t the workers but only the business elites who were speculating by creating financial bubbles and evading taxation and social security contributions.

In a systemic crisis like the current one, scapegoating the most vulnerable such as the immigrants and the entire working class is a common practice that attempts to convince the victim for the necessity of its sacrifice. As regards the notorious “opportunity” for a return to an idealized past – as this is advocated by the Greek industrialists (SEV) and their mouthpieces in the media – this constitutes a major setback for labour and society.

For, if we examine closely previous periods, we discover that this image of a supposedly “pure” past is in fact disguising the misery, the poverty, the ignorance, the political authoritarianism and the forced immigration that in reality were characterizing the past. The workers were trying to survive on meager wages while others were getting richer and richer. There is no redemption in poverty. There is nothing purifying in unemployment.

They destroy our lives and bring despair to society. Misery doesn’t bring happiness and, in the future they are creating through cuts and layoffs, charity cannot meet the needs of the unemployed and the poor. This future is clearly illustrated in the business conferences organized by the bosses on how to exploit the opportunities the crisis generates.

In such a conference, covered by a major newspaper, the speakers defined crisis as an opportunity to “keep the best employees” and they trained their officers and executives in the management of the psychological pressures generated by the massive layoffs as well as in methods to protect the social image and reputation of companies that are laying off workers.

Additionally, their “innovative strategies toward development” include, apart from massive redundancies, branch closures and the abolition of all specializations. Their future is not the only way. History teaches that the crisis can be an opportunity not for a return to the past but for a leap forward.

During the four previous defaults of the Greek state, the first labour unions were created and strengthened while the constitution itself, the abolition of the death penalty, the eight-hour workday, the sectoral agreements, the social security system, the abolition of piecework, the establishment of the Sunday holiday, the wage increases and the abolition of the imprisonment for debt were all won through strikes and struggles.

But the history of the labour movement in Greece is not taught in schools.

Fellow workers, we must rewrite the history of labour demands and struggles; we must regain our social security and labour rights; we must oppose their charity with our solidarity and collective action. The only way to regain what is ours and to achieve what we demand is massive participation.

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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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