Strikes and demands

All sectors of the economy have been plagued by strikes lately, with an «Olympic bonus» being demanded by all workers’ unions in the broader civil service leading to similar demands in the private sector. First it was the police officers and firefighters, now it is hospital staff, air traffic controllers, transport and municipal workers, hotel staff and probably many more to come. No one doubts the fact that the Olympics mean more work, but this can be easily covered by overtime pay without resorting to a blanket bonus for all. There has also been pressure for wage increases way above the national collective labor contract recently signed by the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) and employer organizations, seen as satisfactory as it was above the inflation rate. Nevertheless, a number of sectors have been making the maximum demands, even though powerful unions, such as the bank workers’ (OTOE), have accepted increases of 5-6 percent a year, taking in not only the inflation rate but the post-Olympic situation, which it is generally believed, will not be optimum. It is easy to say that wages in Greece are lower than in the rest of Europe and that the gap should close. But this obviously can’t happen overnight, nor can it be separate from the level of economic productivity. Making excessive demands and resorting to long-term strike action will have disastrous effects on employment and cause further rifts in the social fabric. Unions have a duty to take into consideration general economic conditions before making demands. They do not operate in a vacuum. Everyone knows that the domestic business market is not exactly blossoming and there are many who predict a crisis in the next year. Moderation is in order, as is self-control and mediation. Excessive, unfounded demands only cause harm.