On the Picket Line

Solidarity concert to save jobs at Greek smelter and mines

By Georges Mehrabian
and Natasha Terlexi
October 31, 2022

LARYMNA, Greece — A solidarity concert attended by over 250 mine and smelter workers, their families and area unionists and other supporters took place here Oct. 9, about a two-hour drive north of Athens.

Larco, the largest nickel producer in the EU and the state-owned company that operated the smelter here, has been in receivership for three years. The Greek government has been trying to sell it, while workers and their unions here and in four other parts of the country have been fighting for mining and smelting operations to continue.

“The more than 1,200 workers and contract laborers at Larco were fired July 29. That same day, each individual had to sign temporary contracts to enable them to work until the end of December,” Panagiotis Politis, president of the Union of Workers at the Larymna smelter, told the Militant. “Many have been put to work shutting down the huge furnaces and securing installations.

“The government has offered us a ‘bridge’ scheme, which is a bridge to unemployment. But we don’t want stipends — we demand the right to work,” he said. “We have managed to remain in the plant up to now, and we will not go away. We demand that everyone be rehired by any new owners, keeping our union representation.”

“Three hundred families were supposed to abandon their homes, which belong to the company, when we were all fired in July,” said Kostas Samaras. “They are still there, too. But of course this bears down heavily on us, as you not only lose your job but your very home.”

Speaking to the crowd before the start of the concert, Politis thanked the Panhellenic Union of Musicians, which provided the day’s entertainment, as well as the labor centers of Lamia and other towns, local mayors who came, and parliamentary delegations from the Communist Party and Syriza who were there.

The event was held on a football field a stone’s throw from the idle plant. Working people and union locals from the nearby communities of Martino, Chalkida, Lamia, Thiva and elsewhere came bringing donations.

“Closing down the plant and the adjacent mine would also shut down our communities here,” Politis said. “With their solidarity, as well as that of dozens of unions around the country, and together with the strikers at Malamatina [winery in Thessaloniki] and others, we will keep fighting. We can only win together!”

Messages of support can be sent to openlarco@gmail.com.