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May Day celebrations were brought to the beach

01 May 2013 / 17:05:50  GRReporter
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Victoria Mindova

"Everyone is at the beach, people did not support the celebration truly," said a frustrated citizen who had arrived at Klafthmonos square as early as 10:30 a.m. in order to take part in the meetings dedicated to the International Workers Day.

GRReporter joined the meetings on the occasion in order to reflect the moods of society. The main question we asked celebrating people was: “Are you on strike or are you celebrating the day of the workers today?” The answers we got were vague but the recurring motif was that Greeks no longer honour May Day as they should.

According to many leftist supporters in Greece, May Day should not be considered an official national holiday. This date must preserve its authenticity and people should go on strike instead of having a day off each year.

The same opinion is shared by a representative of the Greek Communist Party, who told GRReporter that May Day celebrations cannot be imposed by the government, but they should be a natural expression of protests against the unjust policy and suppression of labour rights.

At the suggestion of the Hellenic Chamber of Commerce, the government adopted the first of May as a working day this year in Greece and the holiday was moved to Tuesday 7 May. "In this way, citizens can visit shops to make their last purchases before Easter and have five full days off," explained the Chamber of Commerce.

The trade unions decided that changing the day off was unfair and announced a nationwide strike. They urged citizens to join protest meetings and marches, but few responded to their invitation. "Representatives of the union of private sector workers (GSEE) alone number about 50,"  a journalist of Greek media told GRReporter.

Three different meetings were held in Athens in order to mark the International Workers Day. One of them was held in Klafthmonos Square and it was organised by two major trade unions – GSEE and the Syndicate of employees in the public sector ADEDI. The second was organised by the union of the Greek Communist Party in Syntagma Square in front of the Parliament building, and the third was held by non-parliamentary left-wing organisations and anarchists in front of the historic museum. Despite the large-scale organisation, citizens’ participation in the May Day meetings was subdued.

Data on how many people took part in the May Day parades remain controversial. According to various media, the number of workers who took part in the meetings in Athens ranged from three thousand to seven thousand in different media. The police have not announced official information yet on the number of people who went out in the streets on the International Workers Day. However, it is an undeniable fact that the people who came to support the festival and announced strikes were significantly fewer in number compared to previous years.

"Today we honour the struggle and sacrifices of the working class for the achievement of human labour conditions; we honour the struggle for social and labour rights. At the same time, we are sending a message to the government, supervisory Troika and European forces, that we are continuing the fight against unjust policies that destroy established labour rights," said GSEE’s President Costas Tsikrikas.

"On the current first of May, demands for which our forebears fought decades ago are topical more than ever. We are fighting again for an eight-hour working day, labour and social rights, and keeping basic human rights that have been taken away by violent means for the last three years," said Zois Pepes, who is a representative of the Board of GSEE, regarding the International Workers Day.

Despite unionists’ resounding speeches, the poor support from citizens left a negative impression on attendees.

"According to unofficial data, there are 1.6 million unemployed in Greece. According to official data, these are 1.3 million. About 100 thousand civil servants will be affected in one way or another by the closure of various organisations in the public administration. State employees, except for uniformed officers, are around 500,000. Why couldn’t we get together even 10 thousand workers today in order to celebrate the holiday?" asked bitterly a protesting man who works in a private company.

Tags: Society social issues the first of May strikes protests beaches Greece
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