OPINION

Who drove Olympic to bankruptcy?

The accounts of Olympic Airlines unionists concerning the activities of the political leadership that led in part to the company’s financial demise are true. Of course they didn’t give us the full story, because the politicians’ decisions often entailed special privileges for OA workers. But, yes, OA was used to fly in voters from abroad and ferry the press around the world, as well as by ministers and other government employees (including their entourage) and much more that a privately owned company would never permit. In fact, this makes a strong argument against having a national carrier at all. But what happened at Olympic Airlines is exactly what has happened and continues to happen at other public utilities: Those who were the first to get their hands on the cash cow simply helped themselves. Some workers got a fair share of the pie themselves and also we must not forget that workers went on strike because they were not allowed to take their holiday leave during the month of August, OA’s busiest time of the year. The political system stands accused of driving OA to financial ruin and the truth is that every administration bears a share of the blame. But then again, wasn’t it the Greek people who insisted that daily papers should reach every corner of the country on the same day? Some publishers met this demand to their own advantage, but there was no outcry against the costly venture. Sometimes there was some noise made over a canceled flight, or because some part of the country was not getting a regular air service. Overall, however, everyone seemed to agree that OA is not just a company, but that it also performs a public service. The irony is that the very same people who beat the «public service» drum, those in favor of progress, today are chastizing the two-party system for «driving OA to closure.» They were the ones leading the marches in support of OA workers’ rights, OA’s social role and democratic duties, and to keep OA fares at low levels. Just last year – when the company was on the brink of closure – Synaspismos Left Coalition MP Asimina Xirotiri asked Parliament to maintain OA’s flights from Thessaloniki to Dusseldorf and Stuttgart, because, she said, it was in the «best interest» of the people of Thessaloniki. We can’t lay the blame for Olympic’s plight squarely in the lap of governments past and present. Olympic did not end up where it is because of politics alone. For society has also had a hand in its demise. Just as we want the Public Power Corporation to sell electricity below cost to meet society’s needs, so we helped lead OA to financial ruin. Society had its reasons – even if they were that one party demanded the continuation of flights to Dusseldorf and Stuttgart, or because we supported the view that workers have a right to leave in August.