Interview G. Fragidis: The strike in Malamatina continues and needs everyone’s support!

Interview with the president of the Union of workers in Malamatina, Yannis Fragidis

The workers at the “Malamatina” winery in Kalochori Thessaloniki have closed 2 months of continuous strike action. In the early hours of the 31sther August 6 MAT squads, after long hours of clashes and tons of chemicals, managed to “break” the strike guard, taking workers, including the president of the Union, to the hospital. Only in this way was the employer able to put the anti-strike mechanism in the factory.
Since then and to this day, dozens of strikers are on daily shifts outside the factory gate, while police forces are on a 24-hour basis inside and outside the factory, as if it were a private security company, and the strikers enter every day with the MAT cage escort!
In these circumstances, on Monday September 19, “X” visited the strikers outside the Malamatina factory once again and Mr. Giannos Nikolaou and Rena Meziltsoglou talked to the workers about the situation and the prevailing climate, while the president of the Association, Yiannis Fragidis, gave an interview. Read below some characteristic excerpts.

President, one of the main justifications used by the employer to proceed with layoffs was the high labor costs. What is the reality?

As we have written in our 4-page brochure, which answers a series of lies about the strike in Malamatina, the consolidation agreement (court decision 15870/2021) had specific provisions. First of all, let’s say that the total debt of the company before the consolidation was over 40 million euros. They were given almost 30 million. An arrangement was made for the remaining 12 and will be repaid in 240 (!) installments.

In other words, they were given about 55% of the debts to insurance funds, tax authorities, etc. and more than 70% to creditors and banks. Thus the total of 30 million is obtained. Therefore, the majority of them are money of the Greek people.

The provision of the consolidation agreement was to keep the factory in operation and all the workers (all 85) in their positions with the existing working conditions. This was also the main condition for which the Union gave its consent to the reorganization plan, so that the factory would not be closed. After all, the new employer also had full knowledge of the employment contracts that applied to all employees and agreed to the above conditions.

According to the financial consolidation plan, after debt relief etc, the company would be profitable from the very first year.

The new employer, however, seemed to not want the unions to exist, they wanted to use the Hatzidakis law and proceed with layoffs and individual contracts – we don’t know if that’s what they wanted from the beginning, but the result shows that. In other words, it seems that along the way we were chosen as an “experimental animal” of the Hatzidakis law.

Do you think the layoffs were retaliatory?

All 15 dismissed are members of the Union.

The first 5 layoffs took place in the midst of negotiations (note: in the spring of 2022) and in the midst of work stoppages. These were done to send the message to the employer that he can do whatever he wants inside the factory. In fact, these are employees who initially worked from July 2021 until December 31, 2021 with a fixed-term contract. From the new year they signed an indefinite contract. On March 1, they switched to the new corporate status.

So from where they were, let’s say, “on trial”, they sign after 6 months for an indefinite period (so the employer considers that they are “doing it”) and then 2 months later they are fired. Why; So that they don’t have time to make up time and so that the others are terrified.

It is revealing that after a week of the first 5 layoffs they proceeded to hire 7 more people, with 2-3 month contracts – basically to act as a distraction mechanism afterwards!

It follows from these actions that the dismissals were not made for financial reasons or because they were not “getting work”. They were done under pressure so that the union would sign a new contract with far fewer rights.

What is the climate prevailing among the striking workers?

Let’s say in principle that the strike guard “broke” only after a long-hour effort by the police and the MAT with wood and chemicals, in the attack of the 31her August. In this way they managed to open the gate and let the strikers inside. Since then, the presence of police forces has been continuous, with cages accompanying the strikers daily.

The psychology of the world is at a high level, so we are still outside the gate on a daily basis. The dismissed also participate in the strike guard. The main thing that keeps us going and everyone has noticed is that there is a big “restructuring” going on in both the Clark Operators and Production (after the Sales Drivers) department. That is, the attack is not only about the 15 dismissed, therefore the match needs to have continuity.

The company says that within five years there will be a doubling of jobs. Of course, what he doesn’t say is under what conditions (full or part-time?) and with what wages and rights will these workers be!

What the company is proposing in the famous restructuring is a salary of 713 euros plus a 20% increase – even for workers who are currently paid 1,300 euros! In other words, this is a clear harmful change.

We are asking for what we asked from the beginning: for all the workers to return to their positions and for the previous collective agreement to continue for the next 2 years.

In terms of industry mobilizations, what thoughts are there for further actions?

Speaking also as the president of the Panhellenic Federation of Bottled Beverage Employees, so far we have not brought the Federation forward to declare a major strike. However, we are focusing on the next actions. We want to organize a big meeting where we invite other unions, organizations, society etc. to the Labor Center, to inform them what phase our struggle is in and possibly organize a march through the city, with the aim of having even greater success from the previous one that took place on September 6.

Can a well-prepared 24-hour strike in Thessaloniki, in the direction of “nothing works for a day in the city” help the struggle?

When you set a goal you have to prepare the way and have a positive result. We believe that to get to this point we will have to work beforehand with movements and neighborhoods, hand out leaflets so that the whole world understands what is happening, so that when the time comes for such a call people will be prepared and get out on the road more easily. We therefore need to go to the streets, to neighborhoods, to schools, to put notices in mailboxes, to put up banners in parts of the city, etc. For something like this, of course, only the forces of 50 strikers are not enough.

Another point is that our struggle has received solidarity from many different places, which do not all agree with each other on everything. We try to unite all of them under our umbrella, each of them having their own “beliefs” in a distinct way, but all of us together leaving whatever differences we have and each on his own side, without opposing the basic goals that puts the Union forward, to be able to cooperate and contribute to the success of the fight.

Therefore, actions like the above are in our thinking and especially until the end of September when we have made a decision at our last meeting to continue the strike.

Thank you, good luck and strength to win your race! We will be firmly by your side!

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The article is in Greek

Tags: Interview Fragidis strike Malamatina continues everyones support

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