Fruit picker pay protest gets result

PATRAS (AFP) – Hundreds of protesters demonstrated in the Peloponnese to protest the working conditions of migrant farm laborers, police sources and union organizers reported. More than a thousand people, including members of the communist-affiliated Workers’ Militant Front (PAME) and several of the seasonal workers themselves, attended the demonstrations, which were called by PAME. The protests took place in several towns in the region, including Nea Manolada and Vardas, Nikos Gontikas a PAME official told AFP. It was in Nea Manolada that seasonal workers held a three-day strike in early April, the first time that they had staged this kind of action. They were protesting their working conditions and low wages on farms that had hired them for the strawberry-picking season. Their campaign for an improvement on wages of 23 euros a day was supported by the Greek Communist Party (KKE). Although there were some scuffles during the dispute, during which three people were hurt, the farmers eventually conceded a pay rise. The farm workers, who include many illegal immigrants from Albania, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Romania as well as members of Greece’s minority Roma community, want better working conditions and wages of 30 euros a day. The strawberry pickers sometimes have to work in local greenhouses in temperatures up to 40 degrees Celsius. Whole families live in plastic tents near the site of work often without access to running water, paying rent of up to 100 euros a month. Media coverage of last month’s dispute described the workers as «strawberry slaves.»