Olympic personnel call for repeated strikes

Olympic Airways employees, aware that they may lose their jobs and innumerable privileges, are ready to take to the streets to protest the ailing state-owned airline’s privatization. The government wants to sell a majority stake in Olympic and is already in talks with one of the bidders, Axon. The talks are expected to last until mid-October, ending, conveniently enough, after the ruling Socialist party’s congress. Yesterday, the Association of Trainee Pilots marched to the National Economy Ministry in Athens’s Syntagma Square. The march attracted few people, but it gave a clear sign of the rift within the Federation of Olympic Airways employees (OSPA). OSPA had opposed privatization in the past, but its leadership, in which pro-government unionists hold a majority, have been quiet about the matter of late and seemed to acquiesce in the selloff. Recently, however, grassroots pressure within OSPA to mobilize against privatization has been growing, as has the reaction against those within OSPA who are prepared to negotiate with the prospective buyers. All bidders – private Greek airline Axon, Australia’s Integrated Airline Solutions (IAS) and Cyprus Airways – have indicated they will cut jobs in the overstaffed carrier by about a third. Under the pressure of its constituent unions, OSPA decided to call a 24-hour strike on September 19. Plane crews, excluding the pilots, of subsidiary Olympic Aviation have aannounced three 48-hour strikes, on September 29-30, October 6-7 and October 13-14 – all weekends – demanding that the government declare the privatization tender void. The legislation is due to set out the role to be played by prefectures, underscoring the fact that 80 percent of funds will go toward regional development.

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