My name is Bekris Markos, I work as dock worker in the port of Piraeus and I am the President of ENEDEP-COSCO workers’ Union.
On behalf of PAME, we would like to welcome you to Greece, to the National Congress of PAME that takes place tomorrow and the day after tomorrow in the working-class city of Piraeus. To welcome you to the International Seminar of PAME that we are holding today on “the action of the unions in all conditions. Our experience from the struggles during the pandemic.” In these conditions, the unions and trade unionists that rally in PAME opened big fronts of struggle for the defense of the health and the rights of the workers, organized emblematic struggles in sectors of work and big companies that had important victories.
We believe that this experience is a resource for organizing the action of the unions and PAME in Greece from better positions, in order to intensify the struggle against capitalist barbarism and exploitation, against the governments that serve the business groups.
Your solidarity gave strength to the struggles of the workers in Greece, it gave us with greater endurance, with strength and courage. The solidarity and international class struggle of the workers is an integral element so that the class struggle of the workers can put its stamp on the developments, to organize great and victorious class struggles.
This experience also emerges from the struggles of the COSCO port workers’ union of Piraeus. Struggles that bore fruit, with the signing of the Collective Contract with significant increases, against the laws of the state and the shipowners, against the industrialists and monopoly groups.
Our fight for our basic rights starts from when COSCO came in the port of Piraeus. more than ten years ago, in conditions of huge unemployment, COSCO’s investment was presented as an opportunity from the sky for the unemployed. We went to work in miserable conditions. There were no rights. No Contracts, no timetables, no protection measures, nothing. We have constant accidents, injuries. With the support of the PAME unions, we started efforts to create a union. In the beginning in secret. Little by little we take steps, we organize the first mobilizations, our union is founded. The first mobilizations are very difficult, fear prevails, along with anger and indignation. Very important in these first struggles and actions is the support of PAME but also the first events of international solidarity by the colleagues from the Regional TU of Marseille.
Our massification and the repercussions of our action frighten our employers, who use all the governments we had, ND, SYRIZA, PASOK, to terrorize us. Our strikes are always declared illegal. The employer, with the help of the then SYRIZA government, set up its own “union”. Intimidations are escalating. And we reach the period of the pandemic.
At the beginning of the pandemic we take advantage of the initiatives and actions of the militant doctors. We bring Healthcare workers to the port, we talk to the workers, we give them courage. On May 1, 2020, after the large rally of PAME, we return to the port and see the smiles of our colleagues have grown stronger.
In such a period, comes the tragic moment of the death of our colleague Dimitris. The rage overflowed. We are holding mass meetings that the workers themselves decide to go on continuous strikes demanding protection measures and a Collective Agreement.
In this struggle, we live shocking moments. We talk by radio with the ships waiting to unload. We inform the workers there about our fight. From the radios we hear in different languages the same message “WE ARE WITH YOU, BROTHERS CONTINUE!”.
We organize daily actions, protests, rallies. At a time when we are holding a large rally in the docks, videos are coming from the COSCO offices in Istanbul where our colleagues from NAKLIAT have gone and from the ports of Italy that are mobilizing in solidarity. These actions give us tremendous strength. Messages of support are coming from all over the world.
On November 4, employers and the government retreat, and negotiations for the Collective Contract begin. We share our joy with our colleagues from France and Turkey who come in person to the port to support our struggle.
A new multi-month and multiform struggle begins. The courts send us every day their rulings that our strikes are illegal. The government is sending repressive forces, as if we were a terrorist organization. Coast Guard, special forces, armored tracks with water cannons. But their efforts fall on deaf ears.
Our fight ends with the signing of a Collective Agreement about 15 days ago. It was a great victory
These battles, this fight that has been, is and will continue to be even more important because they confirm one and the same thing: Only our struggles can bring results, struggles targeting both the real enemy, the business groups and the governments that serve them. Struggles that defend our class interests and show the perspective of class struggle. That do not cultivate illusions that there are governments that are pro-workers, struggles that do not want to turn the workers’ movement into a stepping stone for governmental change.
Our greatest success is the fact that our Union was the center of the struggle. Its massification, its action, the massive and democratic participation of all its members. PAME is fighting for such unions. Unions real castles of struggle, with massive and democratic General Assemblies, in constant contact with the majority of workers inside and outside the workplace, to cultivate and keep the fire of resistance warm in all conditions, even when everything looks black and against us.
In these struggles it is important the demands of the Unions to be in correlation with the needs of colleagues but also to raise the bar of demanding based on the experience of the worker, that is, what he produces and what is stolen from his work. Such platforms of struggle can become the property of the workers because they are shaped by them, so the struggle that takes place is not alien but his own. We have achieved this and no strike-breaking mechanism, no court and no government, no repressive force has been able to bring us one worker another. Everyone understands that we are right. All these years we have fought dozens of battles in different conditions,
o in a capitalist crisis, in a capitalist development,
o at a time of war in our region,
o With different governments, sometimes social democratic, sometimes neoliberal
With the SYRIZA government we were dragged to courts, with the ND government we are dragged back to the courts. With the SYRIZA government, our strikes were illegal, with the ND government, our strikes and mobilizations are illegal.
Through them, with our constant effort, a large number of colleagues realized that they are facing a bourgeois state that has continuity, regardless of the color of government.
We face the united class of exploiters, who despite their great differences, as is the case now in the war in Ukraine where the imperialist centers of the EU, NATO, USA on the one hand and Russia on the other on fight who will have the greater profits, economically and geopolitically. But when they feel threatened by workers, they attack with rage. That is why the workers have no interest in choosing one camp of thieves over the other, they have no interest in involving their countries in the imperialist war.
Our only choice is the solidarity and friendship of the peoples. The relentless struggle against our exploiters and guided by the slogan “without you the gear does not turn, worker you can without bosses”.