OPINION

When unionism is compromised

In Germany, the public sector union went on strike to demand pay rises higher that those approved by the government. Their action froze the entire state machinery and was felt in every sector of society. Some 2.5 million employees participated and the demands of such a large majority of the public sector were heard by the public at large. The general public may have suffered the consequences of the strike for as long as it lasted, but they understood the reasons for it. The government, in turn, saw so many dissatisfied people and went back to the negotiating table. Not long ago, when the French public transport unions went on strike, the system received a jolt, a new round of talks was agreed and a compromise was reached. Millions of employees participated in that strike too, meaning that an entire sector of the trade union movement was mobilized to send a message in all directions. These two strikes were held in countries where the trade union movement remains strong and purposeful and where union leaders understand the power of strike action and use it with due respect. They don’t bring their countries to a standstill on every whim, which is why more often than not they achieve their objectives. In Greece, unionism is an entirely different kettle of fish. Yesterday, Public Power Corporation workers were on strike, threatening the entire country in general, and every other sector specifically, with blackouts. This week, workers at the Bank of Greece brought the country’s financial life to a grinding halt. The Athens bourse was forced to close, pensions were not paid and ATMs, which have become so important for our day-to-day business, ran dry. Today it is the turn of prefectural services and those members of the public who need to deal with them are certain to feel the pinch much more than the government, which the workers are supposedly targeting. Municipal sanitation workers are also going on strike this week. One sector after another is in effect turning on all the rest. What we are experiencing is a tangible and very specific form of social derailment and this on the initiative of the union chiefs, of the very people who are supposed to be fighting for the integrity of the social fabric. The breakdown of the union movement, the anarchic and individualistic manner in which it operates to serve the specific interests and objectives of the few, has undermined the entire movement, made it weaker, degraded its principles and hampered its effectiveness. This is why we are also seeing more extreme, often illegal, methods being used to further these interests and objectives.