From W. Macedonia to Crete for olives

From W. Macedonia to Crete for olives
From W. Macedonia to Crete for olives

I thought it was a good idea. I would like to try it’: These were the first thoughts of 26-year-old Eleni, a permanent resident of Florina, when she read about the new pilot program that enables 500 unemployed people from Western Macedonia to move to Crete and work until February in municipality of Heraklion during the olive harvest.

She herself has not been involved in the agricultural sector again, but she does not think it is a bad prospect. In fact, the fact of the travel and accommodation subsidy helped a lot in making the decision. After all, the 26-year-old is used to moving around trying to find work. In the summer she worked in Central Macedonia, specifically in Skydra, in composting factories, while the previous period as a maid in hotels in the area.

As she mentions while speaking to “K”, the opportunities for employment in Florina are minimal and so far her work is mainly based on the programs of the Public Employment Service, formerly OAED, which subsidize employers to hire people.

The young woman paints a rather sad picture of employment in her area, saying that most of her peers have either left the city of Western Macedonia and gone abroad, or they too work on islands and seasonal tourist destinations in the summers. “If I find something more permanent, I might as well stay in Crete. At least I will change shows and meet people,” he says.

Two needs
The same thoughts are shared by many other residents of the area who are under a regime of job insecurity. The pilot program for the movement of the unemployed was born out of the need to meet two simultaneous needs: the need for employment in Western Macedonia and the need for workers in Crete. “It is the two-speed Greece”, as noted by the president of the Labor Center of Florini, Konstantinos Siakos.

“In Florina there is the issue of seasonality. The inhabitants work in the printing mills in Veria or Naoussa, but are unemployed in the winter. With this program we give them the opportunity to work. We had done it last year as well, again with the cooperation of the labor centers, but we found problems in safe movement and decent accommodation”, stressed Mr. Siakos. As he said, with the subsidy that the program gives this year in these areas, he believes that the issues that arose last year can be resolved.

“The needs for olive picking and grapes in Heraklion are great. We tried to help producers to get in touch with land workers. We made announcements and noticed that workers were also coming from some other areas, such as Western Macedonia”, emphasized the president of the Labor Center of Heraklion, Stelios Borgias, saying that in collaboration with his colleagues from Western Macedonia, they managed to promote an innovative work program.

An innovative program
As Mr. Borgias says speaking to “K”, Western Macedonia presents many advantages as the workers there know from the primary sector and are already moving to neighboring prefectures to harvest peaches and other agricultural products. The move, he underlined, will also have another benefit for the workers as by staying in Crete during the winter they will avoid the high energy costs due to the heavy winter in the region.

Priamos Hieronymakis, president of the Organization of Grape Growers and Olive Growers of Crete, is also satisfied with the program. As he said, even though in Crete the olive trees suffered enormous damage with a reduction in production that reached 80%, the needs for both olives and grapes are still very high. Characteristically, he mentioned that Crete needs 3000 workers for the primary sector.

Mr. Hieronymakis added that this job also needs specialization, however if someone knows the language and has the appetite, he can learn it quickly. “For years now we have been asking for work benefits and not unemployment benefits. This is unprecedented that happened.”

Mixed feelings
“Every job is easy when you have a job and you can work,” comments Mendi Selimani, who has been working as a craftsman for the last 32 years in Florina. Now in the winter there are few jobs in the area and that is why he will also apply to work in Crete. He has worked together with his brother in 2004 at the olives and as he says he knows what to do. Now he adds things will be even easier.

Although Alexandros Damousis had initially asked to be informed about the program, as the days pass he becomes more and more hesitant. “I mean I have to go all the way to Crete to find a job” he asked himself.

He agreed to speak, as he said, to underline the need to create stable jobs in the area and he, like 26-year-old Eleni, said that he changes jobs depending on the subsidy programs for employers that the public employment service puts out each time. “I have never worked with olives before, but I have worked in the field. The program helps with both travel and accommodation, I’m just sad that I have to go so far to work and leave everything behind.”

Daily newspaper

The article is in Greek

Tags: Macedonia Crete olives


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