Banquet (Greece): restaurant workers self-organize
Banquet is a restaurant in Greece with very bad working conditions that leaves its workers unpaid and recently fired a worker for no reason. But the workers are getting organized...
On Monday 5 April 2010 Vangelis Kitsonis, a worker of 6 months at the Banquet restaurant (legal name: Coffee Shop EPE/Ltd.) at Dimitriou Gounari Str 7 in Thesaloniki, Greece called his boss to ask about his time schedule. She said: "you aren't in the time schedule, give us back your work uniform". The worker asked whether he is getting fired, but the boss didn't explain.
Many of Banquet workers are immigrants and according to them the working conditions are very bad. The restaurant owners don't seem to care about the labour law. They don't provide the full obligatory health insurance and the payment is very low and doesn't conform to the agreements of restaurant owners with the restaurant workers' assembly. Many new workers (who are hired a year after they ask for a job) have to work without payment for a week or two, but at the end of the second week they are told they aren't going to be hired. The owners keep even the tips given to the workers by the clients, which adds up to 400-500 Euro daily. The workers have to work six days a week and they aren't given food at work.
What's more, the bosses have installed cameras inside the restaurant tracking the workers, who are also required to pay for any mistakes they do or in case they don't go to work on time. Other legal payments, such as the Christmas' gift, are not given at all or they give only a portion.
The workers asked for the March payment but the bosses weren't giving it, just as they didn't pay them other money required by law, so it was time for action. Two workers broke the silence, but they weren't included in the next week's time schedule. These workers were not officially hired, so they were vulnerable, but they decided to keep fighting.
One of the fired workers is a member of a restaurant workers' syndicate, so he took his complaints to the labour authorities of Greece.
In general, the working conditions of restaurant workers in Greece are very bad. In the last 20 years this industry was the victim of extreme neoliberal policies directed against the workers by all governments (ND=conservatives, PASOK=socialists). In this way, the restaurant bossess can ignore the labour laws. All restaurant workers are terrorized and many have to work without being officially hired. The pay is very low and the owners demand even the clients' tips. The workers have to go to work whenever they are needed and they don't have stable work. There are about 880,000 restaurant workers in Greece but only 200,000 are officially registered by the state health insurance office. This means 650,000 workers have no health insurance, so 70% of the restaurant workers in Greece work in the "black economy", outside the official government statistics. And all that because of the bosses' greed.
A workers' assembly decided to take direct action and protested outside the Banquet restaurant but also outside the state labour offices in April 2010. http://athens.indymedia.org/front.php3?lang=el&article_...56627
Many other assemblies and students' associations decided to support the action. On 23 April 2010 about 60 persons protested outside the restaurant and blocked its entrance. Texts were read and more people joined them, so they added up to about 100. Walkers-by asked what happened and supported the protesters by joining them. One of the bosses was inside and started screaming, and another said lies (that the fired worker was a temporary worker etc). The boss tried to take photographs of the protesters' faces, but he quickly realized this was a bad idea for him. Clients who were eating inside saw the protest and decided to leave the restaurant. Then some syndalists entered the shop and informed the workers inside about the situation. The protest ended successfully later at 12pm. http://athens.indymedia.org/front.php3?lang=el&article_...57365
The action was supported by a teachers' syndicate as well and together with the restaurant workers' assembly they report that other restaurants, like Achilion, as well as many hotels and other similar businesses also do the same things. http://athens.indymedia.org/front.php3?lang=el&article_...57421
Then on 24 April 2010 another action was taken, now with massive mobilization thanks to a combined protest against both the Banquet restaurant and the prospect of IMF involvement in Greece's public debt. As a result, about 1,000 persons gathered and protested outside the Banquet restaurant and the nearby park. This time some riot police cops were already protecting the restaurant. Passers-by and common people supported the protests. Representatives of the workers' assemblies entered the restaurant and spoke with the boss, who saw the huge protest outside and asked for it to go elsewhere. But the people weren't going anywhere. They were staying there, protesting and demanding for the fired worker to be hired again. The boss conceded and signed a document agreeing to hire the fired worker, Vangelis Kitsonis, again, and also to pay him what is owed to him and also to hire legally all the workers with full payment. He also agreed to let the workers share the clients' tips (until now they were taken by the boss). the assembly' representatives went outside and announced the agreement to the protestors who cheered and felt happy. The protest was ended and the workers' assembly will make sure to watch for the implementation of the agreement.
It's important to add that when the workers' assembly was formed it asked for support by the official restaurant workers syndicate but it received no other support than a symbolic announcement. The official syndicate is controlled by PAME, which is an syndicalist organization associated with the KKE communist party.
The demands of the workers were:
1) to re-hire the fired worker, Vangelis Kitsonis following properly all the laws
2) All workers who aren't legally fully hired to be hired normally according to the law
3) All payments required by law to be given to the workers
4) Tips given by the clients to be shared among the workers
5) As the law requires, the restaurant workers should be given food to eat at work
6) All laws and the agreements between the syndicates and the restaurant owners should be followed
At first, before the 1,000-strong protest outside his restaurant, the boss said he agreed with everything but he didn't want to re-hire Vangelis Kitsonis. The workers' representatives said they demanded his re-hire and they said they were going to continue with bigger protests. The boss said he could agree to re-hire the fired worker as a part-time worker instead. But the workers' demand was for full employment. Then the next day 1,000 persons gathered outside the restaurant and seeing this the boss agreed to all the demands. The workers' representatives told him he would have to implement the agreement immediately or face more protests. http://athens.indymedia.org/front.php3?lang=el&article_...58948
This was the case were a worker was fired for political reasons and the workers self-organized to defend him and requrest proper pay and work regimes as required by law.
On 1 May 2010 Vangelis Kitsonis spoke to the self-organized 1431am radio station ( http://www.1431am.org/ ) together with Thomas Sounapoglou who takes parts in various workers' struggles. The programme can be listened to at http://www.1431am.org/audio/gia-ena-machimo-ergatiko-ki...-2010
The 1 May protests in Thessaloniki also gathered outside the Banquet restaurant with 1,000 persons initially and later 1,500 persons. http://athens.indymedia.org/front.php3?lang=el&article_...61486
But on 3 May the Banquet restaurant boss decided not to keep his promises and sent a letter (exodiko, similar to cease-and-desist) through their lawyer to Vangelis Kitsonis and claimed that the worker himself asked to work without health insurance (!), that the bosses accepted the worker for humanitarian reasons (!!), and that the 1,000-strong mobilization outside the restaurant made the children of the restaurant's clients to cry (!!!). In response, the workers pre-announced new mobilizations on 4, 5, 7, 8, and 9 May. The lawyers' letter can be found in full at http://athens.indymedia.org/front.php3?lang=el&article_...62681
The workers' assembly continues its struggle to this day (17 May). On 14 May four Banquet workers gave a talk to the assembly saying that their struggle is a general workers' struggle and it's not only about the Banquet workers. New mobilizations and protests were announced for 14, 15, and 16 May.
But on 14 May when the workers went to a protest outside Banquet, the restaurant owners were there together with lawyers and threatened legal action against the protestors. Then the owner didn't accept to talk with Vangelis Kitsonis but the workers said they weren't going to negotiate without Vangelis Kitsonis. To this, the owner responded that he would shut down his restaurant and he would notify all his workers not to come to work for an unspecified period. According to the law, the owner has to pay the workers even if the business isn't open. The workers described these threats as a lock-out and report that the business had very high profits lately. The workers remained united and say they will either starve together or earn their lawful demands together. The workers have not been paid in the 15 days before 14 May, so to sustain their struggle during the threatened lock-out they will accept solidarity donations at a music concert. They say they will continue their mobilizations and will make a press release. https://athens.indymedia.org/front.php3?lang=el&article...70024
By 17 May 2010 the workers at Banquet restaurant are still unpaid, so they will seek to demand their pay through the state's labour office. They will also seek to learn whether the owners maintain other shops or businesses. A press release will be made on 18 May, and later on the same day there will be a new protest. A new music concert will be organized on 20 May, and the still-unpaid workers accept solidarity donations for their struggle. https://athens.indymedia.org/front.php3?lang=el&article...70605
Greece / Turkey / Cyprus | Workplace struggles | News Report | en
Mon 27 Mar, 14:39
Some words about the Solidarity Fund of ESE 16:56 Mon 10 Aug 0 comments
The Solidarity Fund of the Libertarian Syndicalist Union (ESE Athens) has been in operation for 5 years. The idea for a permanent solidarity fund was born, when on the 31st October 2009 we gathered after a music night, 1060 euros, which we sent to cover the legal expenses of 6 arrested members of ASI (Anarchosyndicalist Initiative of Serbia).
Solidarity with 595 cleaning workers 17:24 Sat 06 Sep 0 comments
The European Network of Alternative and Base Unions expresses its support and solidarity with 595 cleaning workers of the Greek Finance Ministry who were dismissed on September 17 2013 to put the cleaning service in the hands of private subcontractors.
From Istanbul to Thessaloniki Occupation, Self-Management, Production 18:07 Mon 11 Nov 0 comments
They are Kazova workers, resisting since January 31 and now producing while resisting. They are the ones who are trying to change the world as well as their lives which have totally changed since they were put on leave for a week on January 31.
Greek public broadcasting shutdown 04:28 Thu 13 Jun 0 comments
The surprise closure of the public broadcaster ERT provokes anger and a general strike as thousands are fired. [Italiano]
May Day Resistance in İstanbul 22:51 Thu 02 May 0 comments
Last three year, turkish state gave permission to the workers union to “celebrate” May Day in Taksim where is one of the symbol square for revolutionary people because of its place in Bloody May Day history in 1977. Turkish state forbid Taksim Square for May Day this year same as three years before. During this “legal” May Day years, state tried to make people forget the real meaning of May Day. We know that May Day is the rebel day of the oppressed ones, workers and revolutionary people. It is the day we raise the anger against state and capitalists. This year state changed its strategy for May Day. The governor of İstanbul ban all transportation in the city, set up control points for the ones who wants to protest the situation.
Invasion of angry Shipyards workers to the Ministry of Defence 20:30 Thu 04 Oct 0 comments
Invasion and an attempt of occupation of angry Shipyard workers to the Ministry of Defence
Greek hospital now under workers’ control 19:50 Thu 09 Feb 1 comments
Health workers in Kilkis, Greece, have occupied their local hospital and have issued a statement saying it is now fully under workers control. [Castellano] [Italiano]
΅Workers break away from reformist unions 19:36 Tue 17 Jan 0 comments
Today, January 17th marks a very important date in the recent history of labour struggle in Greece – responding to, and in solidarity with the struggle of the workers at Greek Steelworks, the six Labour Centres of Greater Athens (Attica) and the Workers/Employees Union of Athens have called a city-wide strike.
Platform of Struggling Workers! 07:47 Thu 20 May 0 comments
For donations in Dollars: http://www.facebook.com/l/92723;https://www.paypal.com/...NP8N4
For donations in Euros: http://www.facebook.com/l/92723;https://www.paypal.com/...Q2GFC
General strike in Greece 24 Feb. '10 08:06 Thu 25 Feb 0 comments
There was a general stike in Greece yestrday (24 February 2010) against the government measures about the so-called collapse of the economy.
Greek Steel Workers Strike - Greece on the verge of revolution? Think again... Aug 01 0 comments
Undoubtedly, Greece is the country that has suffered the most during this last and totally unrestrained wave of liberalization and fierce devaluation of labour which has been sweeping Europe since the start of the financial crisis in 2008. At the same time there are a multitude of political anti-systemic oppositional forces which have managed to maintain a living presence in Greek society.
Workers’ struggles in the private sector in Greece Jan 06 0 comments
400 workers in the steel factory of Aspropyrgos (near Athens), Halyvourgiki Inc. v Citigroup Global Markets Limited, are in their 60th day of striking, as their struggle is becoming almost emblematic for the working class of the country. Many solidarity actions, as well as events that aim at the economic and political support of the strike are taking place every week in neighborhoods and cities.
H ταξική συνείδηση Aug 14 0 comments
Άρθρο στην «Επί τα Πρόσω» της Ελευθεριακής Συνδικαλιστικής Ένωσης, Νο 8, Καλοκαίρι 2005
Stop the persecution against the women cleaners Feb 28 0 comments
On March 13 is put on trial the cleaner Vaso Gova after a complaint of a police officer. The same policeman is already on trial for serious injuries against two women cleaners Evangelia Alexakis and Vaso Gova attacked on July 10, 2014 during a peaceful protest of fired cleaners to the Ministry of Finance.
Greece: Robin Wood aren’t alone Apr 09 0 comments
We who sign this text as collectives struggling in practice for the self-management, as work collectives, declare that in this way Robin Wood workers are not alone. When you hit one of us, you hit us all. We support with all the strength of our solidarity the struggle of Robin Wood. Self-management for us is not empty words and promises from above, but a road of struggle of those of the bottom for a life with dignity here and now and a vision for an emancipated society. A society and a world of freedom, justice and dignity.
We start the engines of self-management Mar 03 MACG (personal capacity) 0 comments
We demand the government to show us when the assets of a company deteriorate… Why when former employees been paid their arrears the property is changed, and when the bosses sell out machines and made money is not? We understand very well what is happening, how the bosses managed the business. In 20-30 years in that same workplace, we saw so many that no-one can imagine.
We, the former and current employees of the company E.Papadopoulos - N.Pagouras SA, are determined, and our momentum is our right. We do not give up the struggle. We do not give away neither our accrued interests nor our compensations.
Athens: the bookworkers strike Jun 26 MACG (personal capacity) 0 comments
News from the bookworkers strike called on the 18th of June (Athens - Greece)
Against bosses' immunity Mar 12 0 comments
We are determined to continue the struggle we have been waging for the last two years, drawing strength from the solidarity that has been shown to us in practice during all this time by trade unions, workers’ collectives and local assemblies.