Scuffles broke out between riot police and protesters Friday when a prosecutor was dispatched to reopen the Halyvourgia steel plant in Aspropyrgos, western Attica, following a nine-month strike by workers that had effectively closed down the facility.
Police had been on standby when the gates of the facility opened at 5.30 a.m. and clashed with striking workers and members of the Communist-affiliated PAME labor union.
The senior plant manager sustained head injuries during the fracas while some protesters clashed with employees who wanted to return to work. Six people were arrested, charged with committing violence, and later released pending trial.
The police intervention reportedly came at the behest of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Thursday night after talks between Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis, unionists and the Halyvourgia management broke down. According to sources, Samaras stressed the importance of upholding the law and protecting citizens’ right to work, as well as to strike. “The right to work is sacred and the government will do everything to protect it,” Samaras is quoted as saying. His words were echoed by government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou, who also questioned the motives for leftist opposition SYRIZA supporting striking workers. “With whom are they expressing solidarity?” he said. “It was the workers that asked for the police to intervene.” Earlier, SYRIZA had condemned the police action as “a raw, unprovoked, military-style intervention.”
Friday’s intervention followed a court order issued a month and a half ago which deemed the strike by Halyvourgia workers illegal. The plant had been closed since October 31, when employees refused to accept a reduced salary and working week. Since then Halyvourgia’s management has fired at least 50 of its 400 workers and is reportedly planning to transfer the Aspropyrgos operations to Volos, in central Greece.