May 24, 2017

Greek Workers Strike to Protest Shutdown of State Broadcaster

The nationwide walkout shut down tax offices, left hospitals on emergency staffing and was due to disrupt international flights for several hours in the afternoon. Ferries remained moored in ports and trains at depots. Public transit was also disrupted, though workers were running a reduced service to allow Greeks to join a protest rally.

Instead of gathering outside Parliament in central Athens, as they have done for anti-austerity protests since the country’s debt crisis began in the spring of 2010, demonstrators met on Thursday outside the headquarters of the now-defunct Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation, or ERT, northeast of Athens. Former employees and supporters have gathered there since Tuesday night, when the authorities pulled the broadcaster off the air.

Private television channels continued with a news blackout begun on Wednesday while newspaper staff members walked off the job, too, leaving Greeks to depend on blogs and online social networks for updates on developments.

Though criticized for overspending and, like many European state broadcasters, for compromised independence, ERT was widely valued for its in-depth news coverage, documentaries and cultural programs. Until the government sets up a new, leaner replacement — which officials said should happen during the summer — Greeks must rely on the many private channels that operate around the country. Most of them are owned by wealthy entrepreneurs who are widely believed to influence news decisions in line with their political beliefs.

Six channels provide nationwide coverage and 13 others cover Athens, with more than 150 provincial stations. The quality of their fare varies, though most national channels offer a mix of news coverage, talk shows, cooking programs and films.

People also tuned in to online video channels and social networks like Twitter and Facebook for updates on reaction and followed coverage by dismissed ERT workers who continued to operate an underground broadcast of Greek news through satellite streams.

The country’s two main labor unions, which represent some 2.5 million workers but have seen their influence wane in recent months among Greeks worn down by three years of wage and pension cuts, called on workers to join them in condemning an “unprecedented and provocative” initiative by the authorities.

The civil servants’ union, known as Adedy, accused the government of “methodically and autocratically annihilating the rights of workers and citizens, one by one, for a long time now,” noting that its only aim was to satisfy the demands of Greece’s three main foreign lenders: the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Envoys from the lenders, knows collectively as the troika, did not comment on the ERT shutdown. On Wednesday, the European economic and monetary affairs commissioner, Olli Rehn, said there had been no pressure from Brussels for Athens to close its state broadcaster.

“The commission has not sought the closure of ERT, but nor does the commission question the Greek government’s mandate to manage the public sector in Greece,” Mr. Rehn said.

In an address to a business conference on Wednesday night, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras criticized labor unions for “striking every time something significant and positive happens.” He defended his decision to shut down ERT, saying that that the organization would soon be replaced with a new, more streamlined and more accountable broadcaster.

Describing ERT as “sinful” and “an emblem of lack of transparency and waste,” he said the new state broadcaster would mimic “the most modern international prototypes.”

Referring to angry protests by ERT employees, he said, “What we are seeing today are the final spasms of a status quo of privileges which is collapsing.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/14/world/europe/greece.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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