Unemployed, on the sidelines of society

In the past decade alone, more than 44,000 workers in the textile and garments industries have lost their jobs. Every year thousands of small and medium-sized businesses apply for bankruptcy (9,500 last year). In 2005, 25 large factories, each employing more than 150 workers, shut down. Employees who lose their jobs when a factory closes down rarely find another job, and end up on the margins of society. Times are so tough that the unemployed have difficulty finding even «under the table» jobs. A few days of poorly paid work under bad conditions are followed by long periods of unemployment. Meanwhile, bills mount up and people cannot make ends meet. Banks seize houses from customers who have defaulted on a 3,000-euro loan that they took out to cover basic necessities. Distressed and anxious, some of the jobless become mentally or physically ill. Some feel that society has discarded them and that politicians of all stripes do nothing to help them. It was the state that shut down the Drapetsona Fertilizer Company fertilizer factory. Ippokambos Shipbuilders in Athens, once a flourishing company, received huge subsidies just a few years before closing down. The production branch of Goodyear in Thessaloniki was turning a profit for the American company which, however, decided to close it. The OAED Manpower Organization, which is supposed to mediate between the unemployed and potential employers, has failed to do so. And their retraining programs accomplish very little. As for legislation, in recent years there have been as many laws passed to guarantee employers’ demands as there were to protect workers. Hopes are now centered on EU legislation and its implementation by the Supreme Court or the European Court of Justice. Yet there are frequent infringements of EU Directive 75/12, as amended by 92/56, which obliges employers to negotiate with workers before proceeding with mass dismissals.