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Tear gas dispersed firefighters’ protest

05 November 2010 / 14:11:48  GRReporter
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Two days before the mayoral elections in Greece the capital is boiling with tension. The special riot police used tear gas once again this year but not against rebellious vandals wearing masks and Molotov cocktails in hand but against the peaceful protest of firefighters on term contracts. GRReporter was on the spot and spoke with representatives of the firefighters.

"We have been working for years in the worst conditions possible and the only thing we want is equal working conditions with those of our colleagues on permanent contracts," said a representative of the Greek federation of seasonal firefighters with 10 years of experience in the field. He refused to tell his first and last names fearing that he could lose his temporary job if he gives information to the media. Nevertheless, he agreed to speak about the problems of seasonal firefighters amounting to 5500 people in Greece. The man explained that during the summer the ratio of firefighters is one to eight – one permanent employee and eight temporarily assigned. "But our wages are quite different." The man said that until the last year the state has offered them eight-month fixed-term contracts with a net monthly salary of approximately € 860. The basic monthly salary of his permanently assigned colleagues, however, is not less than € 1200. This year, due to economic crisis, the wages of seasonal firefighters were reduced to € 750 euros with no right for benefits.

"Any opposition party promises us that when it comes into power it will permanently assign us and forgets about us when it forms the government," explained the man. So far, hired firefighters joined the labour offices in the months between November and April. Many of them have to seek employment at construction sites or as security guards to live through the winter, until the new fire season comes and the state needs them again. "We are people with families. Moreover, we are professionals and for me fire fighting is my vocation. However, the state did nothing to solve the problems of firefighters for 15 years now." 2011 prospects are even worse because according to recent (unconfirmed) information, term contracts for the next summer will be signed for just five months.

Firefighters protest took place on Thursday evening outside the Parliament building on Syntagma Square in the capital. While the fireman was talking on the GRReporter’s microphone the police began to disperse tear gas without warning. The special police pushed the protesters to the pedestrian part of the square in no time and clear reason and the police officer in charge gave no explanation.

Tags: NewsProtestsTear gasFirefighters
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