May Day slogans

As every year, I attended the May Day workers’ rally in central Syntagma on Wednesday. There were plenty of people with red banners and flags, shouting out the prescribed slogans. They could have stayed in the shade of the square but, as always, they spread out onto Ermou and Stadiou streets to achieve the chief goal of protesting workers: blocking traffic. Then the speakers took to the platform and delivered their customarily stilted and predictable speeches. How do the spokespeople for protesting workers always manage to be so unconvincing in their rhetoric? Over the course of the day, they made demands: A five-day, 35-hour week with a 1,200-euro minimum monthly wage; retirement for women at 55 and for men at 60, with a 950-euro minimum monthly pension; pensions for all citizens who have worked for 30 years, regardless of their age; an age limit of 50 for women and 55 for men working in jobs deemed hazardous to the health. «Who are these people kidding?» I asked myself. Judging by the apparent disinterest of the crowd, it was only themselves. I wondered to myself if they had ever tried to calculate whether a business could survive giving out a minimum wage of 1,200 euros and a minimum pension of 950 euros. Have they ever figured out how many small and medium-sized Greek businesses could cope under such standards? And what would become of workers’ pensions funds, which are already in the red?

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