Exploring Eleusis while discussing labour28.04.2022
On Saturday, October 16, 2021, our second introductory route took place in Eleusis. The group that gathered, residents of Eleusis and the team of Transition to 8, headed towards key locations related to labour in the city, our main topic of discussion.
In the aftermath of the economic crisis and the pandemic, labour has been a burning topic that affects the economy and the quality of people’s lives. Eleusis’s factories led many immigrants and refugees to the city looking for job opportunities, creating a unique workforce with multiple identities. Eleusis is now in a transitional phase of deindustrialisation that produces some exciting fermentations in the city.
The workers of Eleusis historically took the lead in the labour movement in Greece. Some of the first strikes occurred here while the city's trade unions were among the first ones in the country to be established.
The president of the Centre of Eleusis/West Attica Labour Unions, Mr Evaggelos Liggos, informed us about the current working conditions in Eleusis. The closure of large factories was a severe blow to the city and created a new unemployment wave. Yet, many factories still lack specialised staff. Mr Liggos spoke about the tendency to devalue manual labour and technical education of our time, explaining how the needs of industries have changed and what people out in the job hunt must do to be eligible. The situation gets worse when immigrants are forced to work without insurance. He also said that the Centre of Eleusis/West Attica Labour Unions protects all employees by providing legal and education advice and channelling new employees to existing positions. Finally, he did not fail to comment that the attitude of large industries is, to a great extent, disappointing. They haven’t attributed corporate social responsibility, and they often don’t take the necessary measures to prevent accidents at work.
Mr Vangelis Gkinis, President of the Union of Professionals Traders and Craftsmen of Eleusis and Mandra, talked about the self-employed and small businesses. According to statistics, 80% of companies in Greece are small companies that employ a small number of employees. In recent years, the financial crisis and poor pandemic management caused severe harm to such businesses. Today’s trend to merge small companies has resulted in bankrupting or selling many of them. In cooperation with corresponding associations from other areas, the newly formed Union demands measures favouring small enterprises.
Our walk continued towards the Old Railway Station of Eleusis, which houses the artistic direction of 2023 Eleusis European Capital of Culture. Panos Giokas, from the Transition to 8 team and coordinator of the route, talked about Eleusis's transition to the post-industrial era and the shift towards the city's creative industries. Developing people's creative skills is a weapon in the next stage.
The introductory route closed with a short sociοdrama session where the participants exchanged views on the issue of labour. Retirees expressed their happiness about their free time and, at the same time, their guilt: while they get paid without being productive, young people today work too much, but their wages are relatively meagre. Civil servants shared their views, and private sector employees talked from their side. More often than not, freelancers entirely identified with their business expressed that they experience the situation differently. With a bittersweet smile on our lips, most of us "agreed" that the ideal would be to work 9 out of 12 months a year...