Friday, January 08, 2010

[olympiaworkers] Egyptian fishworkers on strike in Nea Michaniona, Northern Greece. Jan 8, 2010

The struggle of Egyptian immigrant fishworkers in northern Greece. Their
strike is still on.

article appeared at clandestinenglish.

About 300 Egyptian workers at the fishing boats of Nea Michaniona (a
village near Thessaloniki, Northern Greece) blockaded two days ago the
small port of the village. Before that, from Chrismas on, they had been on
one day strikes to protest against the severe decrease in ther income the
previous months. They ended the blockade yesterday but go on with their
strike. Egyptian immigrants are paid with shares of each catch's profit.
These shares have been seriously shrinking since some months. A worker who
used to make a living and also support his family in Egypt in the recent
months receives about 300-500 euros a month for working seven days a week
on 24 hour shifts of very hard work (anyone who has spoken to these people
knows how hard they work and under what circumstances).

The workers accuse the owners of vessels of exploiting the method of
payment to present less earnings and shrink the workers' money. What the
employers want through this – beyond expanding their profit margin in the
short term – is to force the Egyptian workers to leave and then bring
other (immigrant, obviously) workers at lower wages. Egyptian workers have
been coming to work in the fishing business since 25 years now and
according to the terms of a bilateral agreement between Greece and Egypt.
They demand that they are paid according to these terms.

The owners of trawlers disprove the allegations and justify reduced wages
on the grounds of increased fuel prices and the low price of Greek fish
due to imports.

According to Communist Party of Greece Newspaper Rizospastis what the
Egyptian workers demand is to be paid the Christmas bonus, to have a share
on VAT return, and be insured in the IKA social insurance fund, not in the
OGA (ΟΓΑ) (which is mostly for self-employed farmers): they
had been at IKA until 2004, when the PASOK government satisfied a demand
of the ship-owners, who did not want to pay for their workers insurance.

Although the workers ceased the blockade, they go on with their strike.
Again according to Rizospastis on Wednesday they also had the first
elections of the Egyptian Association of Nea Michaniona Fishery Workers
(which until yesterday operated on interim administration), despite the
efforts by employers and employer controlled Union of Fishery workers to
prevent such organization along class lines. This Union, whose
administration is affiliated with the PASOK trade unions organisation
PASKE (ΠΑΣΚΕ) has been since 2008 assigned with
the calculation and validation of shares, and it is since then that the
Egyptian workers' wages have been waning.

Various organisations controlled by the Communist Party, and its trade
union PAME, have been close to the Egyptian Workers' struggle. According
to Rizospastis the vessel bosses have been terrorising those (party
members and trade unionists) who chose to stand by immigrants, and they
attempt to break the strike by mobilizing repressive mechanisms. They said
they will sail their vessels by recruiting members of their families in
violation of any law. The Mayor of Michaniona Mr Mavromatis clearlt stood
alongside the vessel owners.. Yesterday afternoon he appeared at the port
and announced that he will go ahead to break the strike.

At the same time, by order of the chief of the Thesaaloniki Port Police
Forces and the Port Authority of Thessaloniki, the workers who went to
lodge a complaint against three ship owners who owed them money were
subjected to tremendous bureaucratic obstacles. The police tried to
prevent their lawyer from representing them, they demanded that the
workers had a translator, although they speak Greek more than adequately,
and kept looking for a Qu'ran for the complainants to swear. Police, riot
police and special port police forces were all the time close to the
mobilisation to intimidate and deter the workers.

Both in Greece (the PAME) and in Egypt trade unions have made protest
rallies at their respective Labour Ministries.

Athens indymedia users report that the only road leading to the port was
yesterday blockaded by about 100-150 Greeks who said they were waiting to
stop the "communists" and along with the riot police there were alert to
smash the strike (which at the time – Thursday noon possibly) was
supported by the workers themselves and about fifty Communist Party
members, who "did not really understood what was going on (some hundreds
meters away from them)". Many racist slogans were being sung, as well as
Chryssi Avgi graffiti and leaflets were to be spotted in the area.

There is a meeting today at 19.00 the Polytechic school in Thessaloniki
for people to coordinate solidarity actions.

No comments: