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Eyewitness Greece: Interview with Hara Petsiou, cleaner fired from Ministry of Finance

By Vivian Messimeris, Athens

January 25, 2015 -- Green Left Weekly and Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Vivian Messimeris is part of the Green Left Weekly and Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal team covering the January 25 election in Greece. She spoke to Hara Petsiou (pictured), a cleaner sacked from her job at the finance ministry. The sacked cleaners are fighting for their jobs. You can read more of team's eyewitness coverage of Greece HERE and HERE.

* * *

Can you explain what you are protesting about?

We are cleaners from the Finance Ministry who work throughout Greece, we are not only located in Athens, but in all of Greece. We work in a range of different government buildings and offices. On September 17 (2013) we arrived to work and we were told that we would no longer be employed. Because of the Troika, I’m not sure why, but they had to retrench a certain number of public employees.

Five hundred and ninety five cleaners were fired. We worked for four hours a day. The EU introduced these shifts as law. They fired only the women who work four-hour shifts. There are some women, not many, that work eight-hour shifts, there are 12 of them and they are still employed. They fired us without any notice or warning of any kind. Since then we have been on the streets. We are on the streets everyday outside the Ministry of Finance protesting. Since early May we have been staging this protest and are here all day and night. We take shifts, morning and night. We also have women who come in from the regional areas. They particularly come in to relieve us when we are tired and exhausted. They come from Thessaloniki, Naxos, Volos, they come from all over Greece, from Crete and that’s how we continue to maintain this protest.

What do you think will happen if a SYRIZA government is formed?

We hope that SYRIZA wins. We hope that we will not only get our jobs back, but that those who were fired unfairly, because there was no evaluation to see that there was an excess of cleaners in some areas that could have been easily transferred to places where they didn’t have any cleaners. So we want those people to get their jobs back and to establish better organisation regarding how workers are distributed across the sector. To see where do we have excess staff, who is close to retirement, these things should be analysed.

I hope that something good will happen, not only for us but for our children as well, because I have two daughters. One is 32 years old, thankfully she works, she is in the private sector. My younger daughter is 29 and she is not employed. She has been fired from three different jobs. She is a girl who can’t stand not working, she has always worked since she was 22, in fact she was working before that. She worked as a waitress while she was studying. She was working in jobs that were not related to her studies and most recently she was fired from a private company subcontracted to undertake government services. She was employed on a part time basis. She worked for 11880, they were a telecommunications company and she worked at KPA. The KPA pays unemployment benefits. The company closed down, she then went on unemployment benefits herself and since then she has been unemployed. She has applied for many jobs but nothing.

Do your daughters have hope in a SYRIZA government?

At least from everything we have heard and from what we have seen them do, they support the lower to middle classes. My daughter has hope that she will be able to find a job. We know that things will not all be handed to us. When I was younger we had opportunities, we were able to find second jobs if we wanted them. Now you can’t even get one job. At one stage in my family three out of the four of us were unemployed, my husband, my youngest daughter and me. We survived on the 75% that I received from my salary because wages reduced while we were put on furlough, and with the €260 my husband received in unemployment benefits. That’s a month. I received about €400. We survived on about €760 a month for three people. We had to a significant hike in taxes in ENFIA (property taxes) increases in electricity costs, water costs.

Before we had mobile phones as well as a landline at home. With what we earned we were able to pay our bills and make ends meet. Now it is impossible to make ends meet because if we want to go out eat we have consider our budget and financial situation. We are always on the verge of having our power cut. Our telephone has been cut many times. In order to ensure that I can pay my power bill I only buy essential items at the supermarket. They have cut so much. My child wants to go to see a movie or go out for coffee and it’s not possible for her. I use to love to read, both my daughter and I love to read, now, we can’t buy any literature to read. It is impossible for us.

We know that many people have heard of our plight both throughout Europe and the world and we had a day of solidarity. Many people came out on the streets in support with our struggle. The Ministry of Finance thought that it would be easy to get rid of us, they thought that we would go quietly because we are women. However, women are very strong especially when it comes to their families. My daughters were and are an enormous support for me. It’s not like I was on a high wage before, but I paid my bills I had the luxury of occasionally going to a tavern, now when I think about going out for a coffee with my husband I think of the €7 it will cost me. With that €7 is could buy a kilo of mince to feed my family. We will and we are fighting this injustice everyday and we thank everyone for their support and solidarity.

[Vivian Messimeris is a member of Australia's Socialist Alliance in Sydney.]

Athens vox pops: 'We need change'

By Vivian Messimeris, Athens

January 24, 2015 -- Green Left Weekly and Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

* * *

Manolis Litsioltis
Pensioner

The last four years they have destroyed us with taxes. As a pensioner I have nothing, yet the government has asked me to pay thousands in taxes. How can they do that? The government doesn’t feed me; it doesn’t give me anything why should I be made to pay taxes that only go to fill the pockets of the corrupt.

I will be voting SYRIZA. I don’t expect them to be throwing money to everyone on the streets. But I don’t expect them to steal, like the previous government who have stolen our money for forty years

Jenny Prassa
Hospitality worker

Working life has become a lot more difficult and the political arena has been significantly impacted. Every aspect of life has been difficult.

I will be voting for SYRIZA because I am hoping for something better. I think that the issue of debt repayment will be crucial and of major significance on Greek politics.

Ioanna Prassa
Bank clerk

I'm one of the ones who have been lucky to be working in an job that is considered to be an essential industry. Job losses in the banking sector has not been affected as much as most other sectors.

Cost of living has increased significantly compared to life prior to the crisis. Health and education are now more expensive than they were, and this has impacted on me considerably as I have two young children.

I have witnessed many of my friends and family lose their jobs or have their wages and pensions cut. Although first hand I have avoided the worst, nonetheless everyone around me is suffering.

I haven’t yet decided [who to vote for], but I am certain that I will not be voting for the current governing party. I am 32 years old and all I have ever seen is the same two parties govern. I think that it is time for someone else to govern.

I think that enormous pressure will come down on a SYRIZA government from Europe. Both external forces and a section of Greek society are waiting for [SYRIZA leader Alexis] Tispras to make a mistake so they can attack.

Vassilis
Courier

We needed this change years ago. The people should not have allowed for the same people to govern for all of these years. I will not be voting for one of the traditional parties that has governed for the last forty years. We need a strong party that will implement change and get us out of debt.

I think that a SYRIZA victory will make things better. The Greek people are not at fault in this crisis. We need to change the system, the way of doing politics. Greece has a lot to offer the world; it has beautiful scenery, industry and agriculture. We have the means to solve this crisis.

Melayia (pictured on right above)

[I am voting SYRIZA] for a better future, because I have hope, I believe, and I anticipate a lot of change.

Things will not be easy but everything is possible. [SYRIZA] has a program, they have a plan to kick start the economy. The biggest issue will be building trading and developing an export industry.

Spiros

[I am voting SYRIZA] because the left has consistently defended the rights of workers. After a government of memorandum that has created misery and poverty to our country. The only solution is the left to give us hope, and slowly we will build a new Greece.

The hardest thing [after the elections] will be to build the Greek economy, the ability to accumulate wealth and to create jobs, allow small business to re-establish. To improve health and education will also be a challenge. We don’t want a society of imposed taxes and conditions, we want the opportunity to be able to grow and develop as a country.

[Vivian Messimeris is a member of Australia's Socialist Alliance in Sydney.]

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From GLW issue 1038

 

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