Struggle On The Streets of Athens

Article @ Morning Star, published 23 January 2015

It’s Friday afternoon and Athens is bustling with activity, shoppers and tourists swiftly walking about whilst stray dogs sleep in the sunshine oblivious to it all.

I cross Syntagma Square to meet Nikolas Papatriantafyllou — a young bank clerks organiser who has agreed to work as my guide and translator.

For a country where in less than 48 hours a new, anti-austerity government is set to take power things seem very relaxed.

“Well, let’s put it this way, it’s Friday, most young people are unemployed, so what else are the going to do but relax?”, says Nikolas shrugging his shoulders gloomily.

We sit down for a Greek coffee and a chat about the need to radically change the country’s economy.

A few streets away from parliament, in front of the finance ministry, lies the protest camp of the now internationally famous Rubber Glove cleaners movement.

The 595 women whose red gloves became a symbol of the Greek working class in the last few months were made redundant over a year and a half ago.

They worked mostly cleaning public offices and as all other public-sector workers, they had well regarded, safe jobs until recently.

They sit in plastic chairs, next to a radiator, underneath banners saying “finance ministry cleaners sit in protest” and “endurance, drive.”

I speak to Antonia Lampropulou who had worked as a cleaner at the finance ministry for 15 years.

“When we initially decided to start this fight, our aim was to stop this government or to overthrow this government and its austerity policies, because we were victims of these policies.”

Through organising they found support and solidarity where they did not expect to find it.

Besides, she tells me, “when you get on a fight, when you struggle, you have strong possibilities to win what you want.”

“If you don’t fight you don’t win anything.”

We part with solidarity greetings and with her words of hope for the pending future.

“We keep being here because we have strong faith in the change that is going to come”, she says humbly.

“Not just us, not just our jobs, we need change for everybody, we need jobs for everybody.”

“I hope for this first and later to solve our own problem.”