Behind the lights, behind the awards, unpaid workers, poverty and unemployment  An image that sims up the new Europe: fired Metropolis protested outside the Eurovision song contest This is a case that will remind British and Irish readers of the situat …

Walton Pantland

Behind the lights, behind the awards, unpaid workers, poverty and unemployment 

An image that sims up the new Europe: fired Metropolis protested outside the Eurovision song contest

This is a case that will remind British and Irish readers of the situation at HMV. Like HMV, Metropolis is a major music, film and technology retailer. Like HMV, it has just laid off a whole lot of staff.

But the situation at this Greek store is even worse: owner Andreas Kouris has failed to pay his fired staff, and owes them € 600,000. He claims he doesn’t have the money. But he has managed to find the money to organise the extravagantly expensive Greek Eurovision Song Contest.

Fired Metropolis workers are not taking this lying down, and on Monday they organised a large protest outside the venue for the Eurovision Song Contest.

The contest was protected by a line of riot police, in an iconic image that captures the New Europe created by austerity: the state using violence to ensure that the spectacle continues.

In the video below (switch on captions to see subtitles), you can see fired Metropolis workers protesting outside the competition.

This is the statement from the fired workers:

Over the last year, entrepreneur Andreas Kouris claims that he has no money to pay the salaries and compensations he owes to the employees he laid off from his Metropolis Stores; well, as the owner of MAD Media Group, he sure seems to have enough to organize extravagant and expensive events such as the Greek Eurovision Song Contest.

The latest manoeuvre by Andreas Kouris, the organization of another fiesta (this time, the Greek Eurovision Song Contest), no less one that was directly assigned to him by the Board of Directors of the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT), begets many questions and offends the world.

First of all, it offends us, the employees laid off from Andreas Kouris’ Metropolis Stores, as we happen to have a firsthand knowledge of our former employer. As a “successful businessman”, Andreas Kouris, ever since he purchased the Metropolis Stores 3 years ago, has managed to close 13 stores, to put the whole enterprise under Article 99 of the Greek Bankruptcy Code and to lay off 180 employees. To this day, he refuses to pay accrued wages and compensations to nearly half of his former employees; the total amount owed to us is over €600,000.

Faced with this attempted robbery of our salaries and compensations, we decided to act. For over a year, we have been struggling with undiminished intensity on the streets and inside the courts, having decided not to give away even a drop of our sweat to Andreas Kouris. We have organized approximately 60 protest rallies, with the support of trade-unions and workers’ collectives: outside various former Metropolis stores (on Panepistimiou Street in the centre of Athens, in Halandri, in Thessaloniki and inside The Mall Athens, where a march took place), at the current Athens store on Stadiou Street, at the premises of the Metropolis company, at the Social Labour Inspectorate, outside the Athens Courts, as well as during another fiesta organized by Andreas Kouris last summer, the so-called MAD Video Music Awards. The result so far: a Greek court has convicted Andreas Kouris to 27 months of imprisonment with a 3-year suspension of the penalty and a financial penalty of €7,800.

Realizing that the amount of money owed by Andreas Kouris to us, his former employees, is almost equivalent to that required for the costly organization of the extravagant Greek Eurovision Song Contest, and that Andreas Kouris, by investing such an amount – illegally withheld from us – in order to organize yet another fiesta, aims to increase his fortune on our expense, we consider this specific action of his highly provocative and offensive.

The organization of the Greek Eurovision Song Contest is not offensive just for us, the employees laid off from the Metropolis stores. The direct assignment by ERT of the Greek Eurovision Song Contest to Andreas Kouris’ MAD TV Channel is an offence for all workers currently suffering by the implementation of tough austerity measures. It’s not just the already despicable obsession of the Greek State to organize such a costly event while people starve; the fact that a public institution is assigning it for free (along with a part of the profits, no less!) to an individual whose enormous debts to the State, to his employees and to a large number of other creditors are talked by the entire market for some time now proves that the notorious “interweaving” of media and political power, contrary to all pompous declarations, lives and reigns!


Laid-off employees of the Metropolis Stores

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.
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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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