NEWS

Goodyear

In July 1996, Goodyear shut down its tire factory in Thessaloniki. Until then, according to official statistics, the factory had been making a profit. It produced 0.9 percent of the global output of tires and provided 3.6 percent of the massive company’s earnings. Press reports at the time indicated the company planned to move the factory to Poland, where it could boost its profits by half. It closed at a time when investments were being made, without any warning, and without complying with the law. The 350 sacked workers appealed to the Supreme Court. «We were lucky that Giorgos Kappos was president at the time and Dimitris Linos was the public prosecutor, and the Supreme Court referred the case to the European Court of Justice,» says former Goodyear worker Costas Stangos. «The Greek government has been under pressure for years to implement EU legislation. There must be consultation with the workers. Companies cannot just take subsidies from the Greek government or the EU then shut up shop without being accountable to anyone.» Most of the workers had been employed at the company for 20-30 years and had, on average, 7,000-9,000 social insurance stamps for heavy work when the factory closed. «The law says you are entitled to a pension with 4,500 stamps, of which 3,500 are for heavy work. We have an average of 8,000 heavy-work stamps. But we couldn’t go take our pensions then because we were too young. And now we can’t because the law says that 1,000 of the stamps for heavy work have to have been earned in the past 13 years. But since the factory closed, none of us has been able to earn those stamps. The oldest, who are closest to pensionable age, worked on the black market till they were pensioned off so that they wouldn’t lose their entitlement. Those few of us who were younger and able to find a regular job lost our entitlement. «And though we went into the company in our 20s and would have left it with a pension at 55; we’re now going to work till we are 65. Unemployment is a step before death. It’s unbearable to have a good wage then suddenly find yourself on the street. When the factory closed, there was great panic. About 30 fellow workers died of cancer or heart disease.» After four years working as a salesman to factories, Stangos, who has a degree in accounting, managed to find a permanent job. «I’m a clerk, salesman and lots more. Nowadays, you have to be able to do lots of things if you want to find a job. My gross salary is 700 euros.»