Intervention by ManolisKarantousas- President of the National Federation of Workers in Food-Drink Industries of Greece
Meeting of UIS AGRO – Europe
June 2019, Paris France
On behalf of PAME and the National Federation of Workers in Food-Drink Industries of Greece I salute the meeting of UIS AGRO in Europe
We want to thank our organization UIS for responding to our invitation to take part in the works of our 30th Congress, which took place last February. In particular, our colleague, ChristianAllium, for the excellent cooperation we had and the constructive debate that took place. We also want to thank the GS of WFTU-FSM, comradeMavrikos for thehonor to be at the opening of our Congress.
The conditions in our Sector and the Role of the Multinationals
The food industry is the largest employer, accounting for 1/4 (26.4%) of all enterprises in Greek manufacturing and correspondingly occupying the first place and in terms of turnover almost 25.2%. More than 1,240 businesses operate with sales of more than €16.4 billion per year. Of which approximately 30 account for 60% of turnover and more than 80% of profits in the industry.
According to an OECD study in Greece, the average worker has a 57% chance of seeing his job partly or wholly affected by machine automation. Most exposed are workers with a low educational level in manufacturing, agriculture, construction and services (cleanliness, sales, drivers, etc.). The trends depicted are:
- extroversion, ie export activity, and that multinationals have a key role to play in making it more profitable. At the same time, workers are having difficulty to afford food products that they produce daily or are forced to buy low-value foods.
- the concentration of land by multinationals and capitalists also means that in the coming years they will need fewer hands through the process of vertical and automatic production, which will extinct 800,000 small and medium-size farmers.
- LOGISTICS and its presentation as a «national target»- Today’s government, as well as the past, along with logistics business groups, are cultivating a fake image of growth in the industry and of the creation of thousands of new jobs. At the same time, in big logistics companies that are almost owned or are multinationals, workers work on a number of occasions, for 16 hours, continuously without leave or day off. And vice versa when production falls, the work is adjusted to 3 and 4 days a week, that is to say during the period of capitalist development and also during the crisis those to lose are only the workers.The transformation of Greece into a transit center in Southeast Europe, has resulted in the undermining and weakening of the productive base of the country and the deterioration of quality in nutrition which was made with EU’s blessing. On this basis we can say indicatively some multinationals have treasured against workers such as PEPSICO, HEINEKEN, COCA COLA, NESTLE, FRIESLAND CAMPINA, UNILEVER, SOYA, BARILLA, and domestic groups and companies such NIREUS, SELONDA, CHIPITA, URIMAC, NEWREST, FAGE, etc.
The Role of the European Union
The EU since its birth is a union of the capital. It is an imperialist organization that promotes globally the interests of monopolies and the European bourgeoisie in all countries. The character of this EU cannot change and become pro-peoples, as the Social Democrats and the opportunists are saying.
This EU is a dead-end for the people. It is governed by fierce rivalries between the capitalist States and poses serious dangers for imperialist wars between them and other imperialist associations (NATO) and capitalist states for the control of natural resources and roads of transport. The workers are the ones called each time to pay with their blood the realization of the war plans.
The only way out for workers and the poor is the struggle to overthrow this policy. This road passes through the directconfrontation of the two worlds: the world of exploiters and the world of the exploited.
Workers in each country have nothing to divide. They have the same problems, the same anxieties, they dream of a world without exploitation, without poverty and wars. A world that every people, workers, will own the wealth they produce to meet their modern needs. Where each people can coexist and live peacefully with neighboring peoples and strive for progress at all levels. It will solve its problems and ensure a truly superior level of prosperity, based on the evolution of science, the possibilities that exist today in the 21st century. Therefore, at every opportunity, we must reveal this and support those who resist. This duty is not to be postponed.
A task that, in recent European elections, came into the daily action of class unions and militant workers. The real dilemma that we highlighted to the workers was whether to reinforce and to vote to continue this path of capitalist exploitation or to fight to stop the exploitation of man by man, a position that is in the founding values of our federation and the class trade unions of Greece.
The bourgeois parties posed dilemmas such as progress-conservatism, fair development-sustainable development, dilemmas that do not interest the working class and that all these versions eventually turn against them. For example, how is Greece’s participation in the EU and NATO progressive? What is the benefit of employers’ growth for the workers, since it always means attack against workers’ rights, etc?
We consider the outcome of the European elections in our country and in the rest of the EU to be negative. Reposition of the organizations and parties that serve the capitalist path of development does not signify anything good for the peoples. The rise of far-right and fascist parties in EU countries is based on the previous policy that attacked the working class and the poor people, for which mainly responsible are the Social Democrats. The conservatisation of large sections of people in this direction is butter in the bread of the bourgeoisie. Fascism-Nazism is the child of capitalism and is only opposed by overthrowing the system that gave it birth, as history has shown.
Action Report of the National Federation of Workers in Food-Drink Industries of Greece:
As main and basic front we had the fight for the signing and reinstatement of our Collective Labor Agreements(CLA). That is the National CLA, the Sectoral CLA and Company Level CLAs. In this direction our Federation held 11 general strikes.We held a National Sectoral Strike in 2018 to sign Sectoral CLA for all workers of the industry and on the same day we held a rally at the headquarters of the employers.
We defended the social and public nature of workers’ Social insurance, with many actions and with strike. We opposed layoffs of militant workers and closures of factories (egNESTLE).We developed action for the payment of accrued wages and to stop uninsured work.We defended the right of Strike against the attack of the Greek Government and other bourgeois parties.We participated in protests against the auctions and seizures of workers’ homes by the banks.We expressed solidarity with the people in areas that were hit by floods, fires and other disasters where hundreds of people were lost, along with the properties of workers and poor people.We expressed our class solidarity in the struggles of the small, poor farmers in the rallies they organized.Significant initiatives were taken for migrant workers who are working in the sector. We have done a special work for land workers.
In co-ordination with the federations of Workers in Construction, Pharmaceutical Industries-Textile Industries and Regional Unions, we demanded that the government take steps against the violation of the human and labor rights of thousands of immigrants.
Through the line of unwavering class struggle, conflict with the SYRIZA government and employers against the line and compromise called by the yellow trade unions like the GSEE in our country, we have developed this rich action. Through this line that is supported by PAME and WFTU-FSM around the world, we have made significant progress in organizing workers in our unions and this was reflected in the 30thCongress of our Federation last February when we had a 50% increase in new members as well as the creation of new trade unions, contributing to the revitalization and reconstruction of the workers’ movement in Greece.
With a small report, we would like to note that the action and intervention of Europe’s trade unions, the steps in their co-ordination and the development of joint actions were not at the desired level. Nevertheless, we mention the actions of PAME and our Federation to support the mobilizations of French workers. The visits of France’s Regional Trade Union Centers and trade unionists from other countriesin Greece.
The realization of the Balkan Trade Union Forum hosted by the Federation of Bottled Drinks-POEEP- in Thessaloniki. The WFTU Presidential Council hosted by PAME in Athens. May 1st Events, dedicated to the action of trade unions against imperialism with speech in Athens by the Ambassador of Palestine in Greece. Here we also note the enormous involvement of workers and young people in the campaign for the liberation of the young Palestinian AhedTamimi, who after her liberation visited us in Greece.While it is important to also note significant actions taken in multinationals, in coordination with trade unions from other countries, such as in the Chinese COSCO, Italian AUTOGRILL, and also in COCA COLA, NESTLE.
Also, colleagues, we consider it important in our discussionin Europe to take note of the dirty and dangerous role of the European Trade Union Confederation-ETUC/CES. Characteristic of its role is that at its recent Congress ETUC received the congratulations, the hugs and kisses of the EU Commission. You may have seen Juncker’s photo kissing his favorite president of the ETUC. Since ETUC is the best promoter of EU positions. And for that its budget is funded by 75% by EU’s institutions, and has never talked even about a half-hour strike.
Its Executives are paid thousands of euros to cut the wages of the workers, to accept the abolition of workers’ rights;it is a mechanism in the service of the employers.They even reached to the point to reproduce the lies, the anti-communism and the slander of the fascists against the militant unions, as is the case in Greece.That is precisely why the workers are abandoning them and ETUC itself says in its Congress’ Documents that its trade unions now face the risk of extinction due to a lack of members.
Today we need massive, militant unions, in conflict with the EU and the multinationals. We need trade unions that will reveal the class-nature of the society, the anti-workers’ role of the EU, that will intensify the front against the ETUC and the forces of class cooperation. In the next period, with more initiatives, we will support action to set up a distinct pole of trade unions in Europe, to support the WFTU with new members. To make a more solid contribution to the effort to rebuild the workers’ movement at European level.
June 7is the UN World Food Safety Day on a planet that is malnourished and plagued by hunger.That is why we are making a proposal for a common day of action in Europe on October 16 World Food Day, as an International Day Of Workers’ Struggle Against Hunger.
This action can be expressed in all the militant forms but also with thematic interventions within factories and monopoly groups across Europe on October 16.Our sectoral organization can help this action to be successful, to mobilize workers and trade unions on this great issue.