Thursday, October 4, 2007

On Communists and Olympic airlines

People regularly call me a communist here in Greece. Maybe it's because of my liberal views, because I don't do my cross whenever I pass a church or because I abhor the military dictatorship which is coming back into fashion, whatever the reason that's the reputation I have. And maybe I would be, if only the communist party would stand up for the little guy instead of the entrenched elite.

This article is a case in point. Both the KKE and SYRIZA have given their support to the employees and Unions of Olympic Airways, and once again stated that they would oppose the privatisation of the airline. Olympic Airlines is THE entrenched elite of Greece, an employee there lives like a King (or Queen as the case may be). Both parties stacked the airline with their people, (and some would say employed them through the back door) as well as with people belonging to the small parties to keep them on side. The benefits received by these employees are an anchor on the Greek economy. Every day it operates is a loss making day for Greece as the state run company has not turned a profit in decades. A former minister Theodore Pangalos said "If you love Greece, don't fly Olympic" such is the wound that this company has made.

In a country where the average income is 700 euros a month, retirees of Olympic receive pensions of up to 4000 euros a month. These pensions are available after only 14 years employment and half pensions after 7 years. So a person employed at age 18 can live off a pension from age 32 till they die. And since they don't work, they will live to a ripe old age. Both parties claim that the airline forms a bond with Greeks living abroad. A lie, because all employees receive 15 free tickets a year for them and their relatives. This means that it is hard to pay for a seat because it is quite feasible for the whole plane to be booked with free loaders. (Happened to a colleague who tried flying to Istanbul, the return trip was full of Olympic staff that had flown over to their grocery shopping). All employees receive free medical treatment anywhere in the world and only do eight hour shifts (now you know why they change crew in Thailand if you have ever flown it to Australia). Such is their arrogance that one time a pilot landed in Thessaloniki instead of Athens to make it to wedding, enraging passengers who stormed the cockpit and wouldn't let the pilot leave till he flew them to their scheduled destination.

Unfortunately because both major parties stacked it with superfluous staff, it is one of the largest employers in Greece, and therefore a major voting block in elections. Anyone who dares change the situation could very well lose the election. But because of Olympic, University graduates, cleaners, builders and entrepreneurs find it hard to earn more than the basic 700 euro a month wage. That's because they see over a third of their wage held back in tax, how else to pay for the exorbitant pension plan these guys are on. So in the end, the little guy, who has no political backing that would ensure him a seat in the public service, ends up paying the cost.

And unfortunately, no party is looking out for the little guy, especially not those so called left wing parties who supposedly stand up for the little guy, both of them have turned their back on the people.

I should close by mentioning that the new minister of Transport Kostis Hatzidakis in his maiden speech said that he will enter a dialogue to solve the problem that is Olympic. I, and the rest of Greece hope this is followed up by action and soon.

3 comments:

graffic said...

I can't, den borw! please please please, let me say two words:

1. civil
2. servants

Add them to the list to "take a look" :)

Vassili said...

Ah yes, i forgot to say that they are civil servants!...

Hans A.H.C. de Wit said...

and its one of the worst airlines I ever flew with....