THE HISTORY OF THE GREEK UNIONS

 

The birth and the growth of the Union Movement followed its own course in every country. This is also true for the Greek social formation, in which the union movement appeared with a certain delay relatively to other Northern and Central European Countries.

On analysing the history of the Greek Union Movement we can determine three periods, based on the broader social-financial evolution's and the particular characteristics of the movement.

 

FIRST PERIOD 1875 - 1918

The first period starts with the breaking of the first strikes in the island of Syros and ends with the foundation of the G.S.E.E. in 1918.

The Greek Trade Unions appeared in the last quarter of the 19th century (1875 and then) when increasing parts of the population overflowing the country side moved to the urban centres and this forming a new class of landless daily-paid workers.

In the mean time, the steady occupation in these industrial and commercial centres created a permanent working class. The first association of workers, according to written material, was formed in 1879 by the carpenters in shipyard of the island of Syros. This brotherhood help the first strike in that same year as an effort to face the consequences of the crisis which reduce by 30% the buying power of their pay.

This was followed by a strike in Athens and in Piraeus in 1882 and the great coal-miners' strike in Lavrio and other mining centres in these areas. More strikes follow. The claims for wages' increases, decrease of the working time to 10 hours, accident prevention and supply of medical care appear steadily.

In fact, the first labour organisations remained charity and mutual aid associations until 1910. They gave great importance to the prosperity of their members by creating mutual benefit funds.

In 1910, a central organisation of the trade unions was established in Athens. But the first singes for an effective union of the workers appear on December 3rd, 1908. The then existing 28 labour associations, organised mass demonstrations against of the "unable to endure any further working and professional classes".

The first world war didn't restrain the fast development of the Greek unionism. In the 1917 there were 206 trade unions with a total of 44.230 members.In 1918 their members raised to 319 with70.579 members and in 1919 to 384 with a total of 82.298 members.

The activity for a Central Union Organisation in Greece came from the TUC of Thessaloniki, which was dominated by the Greek - Jewish Union Social federation : "FEDERATION". The T.U.Centre of Thessaloniki with the aid of the T.U.Centre of Athens and Piraeus, summoned a Panhellinic Conference of the Union Organisations to create a National Centre. In the conference, delegates 0f 44 unions took part, representing about 60.000 workers from a total of 75.000 organised members. The first Panhellinic Conference resulted in the creation of a National Union Centre where all the trade unions, T.U.Centres and Federations acceded.

 

SECOND PERIOD 1919 - 1936

The second period starts with the foundation of the GSEE and its split and ends with the establishment of the state unionism by the dictator I.Metaxas in 1936.

In includes the period of the existing production way in the Greek social formation. It is also connected with the slow but steady expansion of salaried occupation.

During this period from the foundation of the GSEE till the imposition of the August 4th regime (1936) the strikes of paid-employees expand. The smoke-workers the streetcar-workers and the railway employees play a leading role. The social contrast between the employees and the workers is particularly aggravated because of the consequences of the industrialisation during the 30s'.

The syndicalistic activities of the workers were an object of intense political persecution. The police and the army are constantly opposite the strike movement. The arrests, convictions and exiles of unionists are the main mean to regulate collective labour differences.

 

THIRD PERIOD 1947 - TODAY

It covers the post-war course (1947 and then) of the Union movement. It includes the period of development of the capitalistic production way and continues with the beginning of the crisis of the post-war development model in the Greek social formation. Then it comes to the decease 1971-1981 when the salaried occupation reaches the highest percentage in its history.

During this period the bakery workers, the painters, the metal workers, but also civil servants and the employees in state, enterprises such as the bank clerks, the employees in the telephone and electricity services, the mail men and the teacher lead the way in the syndicalistic activity.

Apart from the issue of raises which is connected to the lowlevel of salaries and the inflation of the period 1946 - 1953, new claims are added which question the governmental policy on the field of the legal regulations for dismissals, the collective bargaining, the indemnities, the union constitutions and the union freedoms.

 

 
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 TRADE UNIONS CENTRE OF THESSALONIKI
Aristotelus, 32. 54631 Thessaloniki. Greece
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