Friday, November 30, 2012

Protesting Greek university employees speak to supporters after courtcase adjourned.

Greek police raided the Aristotelion University of Thessaloniki this morning, arresting 11 employees who had been part of an ongoing occupation of the Dean's office. The protest has been in response to the refusal of contractors used by the university to pay workers salaries for over three months.

Those arrested were released temporarily after their court case was adjourned till Monday.

With lay offs skyrocketing many unscrupulous employers have been using the fear of unemployment to delay or even stop payment of salaries, banking on the fact that people will continue working rather than face certain joblessness.
SYRIZA MP calls upon supporters of 11 university employees arrested today to continue their vigil outside city courts

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Supporters of Greek trade unionists charged with assaulting German official await verdict

German CDU MP, Hans Joachim Fuchtel caused uproar during a visit to Greece when he claimed that 1000 Germans could of the work of 3000 Greeks. The remarks sparked off fierce protests by Greek trade unionists already angered by the latest round of public sector job cuts.

During a joint German - Greek conference local government tempers flared and a German official was briefly attacked by angry public sector employees. The police arrested three in connection with the assault but all three were found not guilty yesterday.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How much salvation can one country take?

Greece - Where they make a desert, they call it salvation

For a moment I thought that I'd that the last three years had all been a nasty dream. The presenter on the news was speaking in glowing terms about how Greece had been saved by its EU partners and that now that the bailout deal had been agreed the country could look forward to avoiding bankruptcy.

The problem is that we have all heard this before. In 2009 the local and foreign news organisations were both peddling the same media narrative when the first tranche of bailout cash was approved in return for implementation of tough austerity measures. I still remember the first question I was asked then during an interview with the BBC World Service; "But why are Greeks so upset about being saved?"

The inability of the foreign media to comprehend the angry reaction of Greek popular opinion to the cuts in salaries and services is once again being repeated despite three years in which the country's economy has declined so drastically that the drop in economic indicators is now on par with the United States during the early 30's at the height of the Great Depression. Unemployment now affects 1 in 4 (though that figure may be as high as 30% according to research carried out by Greece's trade union congress) and shows no sign of improving any time soon. Economic output has declined year on year since 2009 and will continue to so for the forseeable future unless present austerity policies are not abandoned.

Greece's mainstream media, owned and controlled by the country's corrupt oligarchs today is celebrating the decision by the Eurogroup to authorize the release of the next installment of bailout cash, not least because of the bulk of the money will be used to recapitalise the banks they own.On the state run news journalist speak  of the skill with which the government has avoided disaster, knowing full well that criticism or real or implied invites instant dismissal.

A much smaller proportion of the cash will go to pay wages and salaries for the immediate future. On the other hand the terms of the deal mean that thousands of public sector workers will be laid off, a decision which has seen local government grind to a halt as workers strike and occupy town halls across the country.

Here in Thessaloniki, Greece's second largest city and home to over a million residents the decision by KTEL (Greece's answer to Greyhound Buses) to suspend operation means that for many the city is effectively cut off from surrounding towns. The dispute over money owed by Athens is set to spread to Thessaloniki's urban transport network as the local bus company has also threatened to stop running from the first of December unless it is paid money owed by central government.

With winter setting in, money getting ever scarcer and the cost of heating sky rocketing ordinary Greeks might be forgiven once again for hoping that EU and the IMF would not insist on saving them again

Lydia and Lion

Lydia and Lion by Teacher Dude's BBQ
Lydia and Lion, a photo by Teacher Dude's BBQ on Flickr.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Greek trade unionists protesting outside the central courts in Thessaloniki, Greece.

Yesterday was the trial of three union leaders charged with instigating an attack on a German consular official during a German - Greek conference on local authority governance. The trial was once again postponed till 28th November after key prosecution witnesses failed to turn up.

The charges are widely seen by Greek trade unions and political activist as an attempt to intimidate local authority employees who have have been waging a campaign of resistance against the first in a series of planned lay offs in town and county councils across Greece. The cuts in jobs and salaries are being demanded by the country's creditors in return for the release of the next tranche of bailout funds.

However, whether Athens will be able to impose its will on recalcitrant public sector workers is moot as just 25 of the Greece's 340 councils have submitted the names of employees to the laid off. In addition over 200 town and county council halls are currently under occupation.

Greek villagers take on Canadian mining giant, Eldorado

Greek commemorate the 39th anniversary of the Polytechnic Uprising in Athens

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

M - A Modern Greek Tale

The aftermath of a forest fire near Thessaloniki, Greece

I have a friend who I shall M. Out of respect for the fact she has enough on her plate as it is without my revealing her real name and adding to the battle she has to wage to retain what is left of her dignity. M phoned my last night barely able to contain her anger, seeking a sympathetic ear for her angry venting. Yet again another job interview had ended in failure and yet again her hopes of finding work, any kind of work were dashed. This time she had been told that her qualifications, which are impressive made her potential employers uneasy.

While Greece's young and educated have long given up the dream of a well paid job that matches their education and skills, the realisation is growing that any kind of job, no matter how badly paid or unskilled is no longer open to them, even when they lower their expectations to levels undreamed of just a couple of years ago. Even a part - time job paying 200 euros a month for a 20 hour week is the subject of intense competition and now the degrees and certificates that so many worked so hard to pass are seen as best an irrelevance and at worse a disincentive.

The bitter irony is that a whole generation of Greeks have been raised to find a future in an economy that no longer exists. The sacrifices made by both parents and children to assure their kids future have proven to be an educational Ponzi scheme with people now holding useless pieces of paper that had once promised a prosperous future.

So my friend M once more trawls the internet and local paper for any kind of job, recent experience and her inner work ethic means that she will happily do any time of honest work that assures her a wage.In summer that meant 12 hour days on the street outside a seaside pizzeria, using her flawless English to persuade tourists to step inside.Now that the holiday season is over she is back in Thessaloniki struggling to find the money to finish her studies that would enable to become a therapist. However, the dream of such a job is fading away quietly being forgotten with every unanswered email, every fruitless interview, every day without the hope of some kind of way out of her dead end.

Greek farmers cut out the middleman and start selling direct toconsumers.

In an effort to break the hold of cartels on the Greek food market, groups have been springing up in small towns and cities across the country which are using the internet to sell their produce directly to consumers and so avoid the massive price hikes which mean that agricultural products on supermarket shelves cost anything up to 1000% more than the prices paid out to farmers.

Thessaloniki, Greece.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Park bench converted into a temporary home for Greece's homeless

ith poverty pushing more and more Greeks onto the streets, parks in the northern port city of Thessaloniki are rapidly being taken over by the homeless. However, with temperatures dropping and heavy rains predicted its not sure how they'll be able to last out the winter in such conditions.

I asked the permission of those staying here before I took this picture. I had a hard time getting that permission but once I explained that my aim wasn't to show them but the conditions in which they were forced to live, they agreed.

Friday, November 02, 2012

A storm is coming - Greece

A Neo-Modest Proposal


For preventing the debts of poor people in the Kingdom of the Greeks,from being a burden on

 The German Peoples or their Creditors and for making them beneficial to the publick.

It is a melancholy object to those, who walk through the Capital of The Greeks, or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads and cabbin-doors crowded with the families of those who have taken their own lives, followed by three, four, or six kith and kin, all in black, and imploring every passenger for justice. These descendants of Pericles and Aristotle instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their time in stroling to beg sustenance for their helpless offspring who, as they grow up, either turn to Godless anarchism for want of work, or leave their dear native country, to work in the Factories in the lands of the North, or sell themselves to dens of inequity.

But my intention is very far from being confined to provide only for the Greeks: it is of a much greater extent, and shall take in the whole number of those of the race of the Germans who at a certain age, become prone with the passage of time to the corrupting effects of Nature's hand upon our weak flesh.

As to my own part, having turned my thoughts for many years, upon this important subject, and maturely weighed the several schemes of our Economists, I have always found them grossly mistaken in their computation. It is true, a man who has take his own life is: at most has not the value of above a few hundred euros, which the family of the Departed may not even receive, I propose to provide for them in such a manner, as, instead of being a charge upon their creditors, or the parish, or wanting food and raiment for the rest of their lives, they shall, on the contrary, contribute to the Reduction of the Nation's Debt, and partly to the cloathing of many thousands.

Poverty in Greece - Begger's sign says "PEINO- I'M HUNGRY"

I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be liable to the least objection.I have been assured by a very knowing Doctor of my acquaintance in London, that a healthy Greek well nursed, is, a most suitable nourishing and wholesome Donor of humane organs, whether heart, liver, kidney, or pancreas; and I make no doubt that it will equally be of service in a male or a female.

Supposing that one thousand families in the state of the Germans, would be constant customers for fresh organs, besides others who might have need of them on other occasions, particularly after misfortunes upon the King's road, I compute that Athens would take off annually about one thousand carcasses; and the rest of the kingdom (where probably they will be sold somewhat cheaper) the remaining two thousand.

But, as to my self, having been wearied out for many years with offering vain, idle, visionary thoughts, and at length utterly despairing of success, I fortunately fell upon this proposal, which, as it is wholly new, so it hath something solid and real, of no expence and little trouble, full in our own power, and whereby we can incur no danger in disobliging Europe. For this kind of commodity will not bear exportation, and flesh being of too tender a consistence, to admit a long continuance in ice, although perhaps I could name other countries, which would be glad to use up the whole nations supply of Internal Organs without a second thought.

Poverty in Greece - pensioner going through rubbish bin to retrieve scraps of meat thrown away by butcher

After all, I am not so violently bent upon my own opinion, as to reject any offer, proposed by wise men, which shall be found equally innocent, cheap, easy, and effectual. But before something of that kind shall be advanced in contradiction to my scheme, and offering a better, I desire the author or authors will be pleased maturely to consider these points.

As things now stand, how Greeks will be able to find food and raiment for a an countless multitude of useless mouths of backs. And secondly, There being a round ten million of creatures in humane figure throughout this kingdom, whose whole subsistence put into a common stock, would leave them in debt billions of euros, adding those who are beggars by profession, to the bulk of farmers, publick servents and labourers, with their wives and children, who are beggars in effect;

I desire those politicians who dislike my overture, and may perhaps be so bold to attempt an answer, that they will first ask the families of these Damned Souls, whether they would not at this day think it a great happiness to have their Departed ones sold for their organs, in the manner I prescribe, and thereby have avoided such a perpetual scene of misfortunes, as The Greeks have since gone through, by the oppression of bankers, the impossibility of paying debts without money or trade, the want of common sustenance, with neither house nor cloaths to cover them from the inclemencies of the weather, and the most inevitable prospect of intailing the like, or greater miseries, upon their breed for ever.

I profess, in the sincerity of my heart, that I have not the least personal interest in endeavouring to promote this necessary work, having no other motive than the publick good of both the Greek and the German Races, by advancing this trade, providing for the infirm, relieving the poor, and giving some pleasure to those God has seen fit to make Rich through banking and other noble trades. I, like the Continental Body Poliltick have no organs worth the name, by which I can propose to get a single penny; being of advanced years, and my body past saving.

Apologies in advance to fans of Jonathan Swift's original.

Inspired by the these two stories;