ATHENS – Desperately trying to find ways to keep open the Hellenic Halyvourgia steelworks where employees have been striking for nine months over 40 percent pay cuts, Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis was talking to union leaders and management trying to end the impasse. On July 17, SKAI TV reported that government officials were hopeful a compromise could be reached to keep the factory in operation. The steelworks is one of the few remaining industries in Greece, which has a service-oriented economy.
A meeting between Vroutsis and union leaders a day earlier failed to make any progress, and the minister asked Halyvourgia owner Nikos Manesis to delay his order to close down the plant at Aspropyrgos, western Attica, which would end jobs for hundreds of workers. Manesis a week earlier issued an ultimatum for the employees to return to work or be fired and see the company closed.
At that time, Vroutsis contacted the General Secretary of the Communist Party (KKE), Aleka Papariga, and asked her to intervene, as the core of the strikers are believed to belong to the KKE-affliated PAME union. The head of the movement representing striking workers at the Halyvourgia steel plant in Aspropyrgos, west of Athens, Eleni Katavati, last week told SKAI Radio that the plant would be closed by this week. She said that the workers had been meeting earlier with political party leaders to air their grievances but that no help was forthcoming.
She said that Panayiotis Lafazanis, of the left-wing opposition SYRIZA party, had supported the decision by the union to keep the factory closed in spite of a court decision deeming the protracted strike action to be illegal. New Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is anxious to show that he can revive the country’s economy and restore some sense of stability as well as promote an image of Greece as a country that is not only driven by protests, strikes and riots.