In whose interest?

The demands voiced by DAKE, the New Democracy-affiliated unionists, raise the question of why workers become members of such unions in the first place – surely not in order to defend their parties’ ideological principles in the working environment. They don’t need to unionize in order to do that. As workers in a democratic state, they must conform to the will of the majority, even if they happen to disagree with it. Besides, unions must be left free to defend workers’ rights and demands. Freedom and independence are obviously not advanced by party-affiliated unions; on the contrary, they distort these principles. Over the past 30 years, we have seen these unions being used as a lever for softening workers’ demands when their party is in power or for spearheading criticism when they are in opposition. In other words, party-affiliated unions never really serve the workers’ true interests. Unlike workers’ interests, unionists’ personal interest is very well promoted, with rewards bestowed for serving party aims. There are numerous examples of PASOK officials who served in the party-affiliated union before being promoted to jobs as state functionaries, deputies or ministers. Such practices were common during PASOK’s rule. One reason was that the party has always based its strength and success on an all-powerful party mechanism. It has also governed for most of the post-1974 period. So unionists’ motives have been partisan and their reward for proven loyalty is in flat contradiction to all sense of fair competition and meritocracy. Given ND’s pre-election pledges to sever the bonds between the state and the party, the dilemma is not whether DAKE’s demands can be met, but whether the government’s pledges to upgrade the body politic are compatible with the realities of party-affiliated unionism.