The Socialist 3 March 2009 |
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Solidarity with Constantina Kuneva
Constantina Kuneva was brutally attacked, in Greece, close to her house last December. The hired assassins threw battery acid in her face and then, in an attempt to ensure she would be killed, forced her to drink it, resulting in her being in hospital now.
The attack against Constantina shocked Greek society and brought to the surface the barbaric working conditions facing tens of thousands of female workers, particularly migrants. At the same time, the message that the killers wanted to pass was clear: any worker trying to resist and fight for their rights will die!
Constantina Kuneva is an immigrant female trade unionist, working as a cleaner. Almost 50,000 such workers are 'rented' by 40 companies to banks, public companies, hotels etc. At least 15,000 of them work without any trade union rights and are often paid for less hours than they actually work.
The employers force them to sign a voluntary departure when they are employed so that they have no unemployment pay rights, when the employers decide to fire them.
Constantina is one of the many women occupied in that sector, most of who are immigrants, and most of whom are exploited. A few days before the attempt on her life, Constantina had stated that she was being followed and that she had received death threats against her and her child because of her trade union activity. The fact that an immigrant dared to defend her rights and fight for better working conditions, plus the fact that she is general secretary of the cleaners' trade union, was worrying and outrageous for the employers.
The capitalist system in this period of international crisis means that economic insecurity is increasing. The right-wing Greek government is promoting, as are all the EU countries, working contracts by the month (or day!), no guaranteed working hours, low wages, splits in the trade union movement and the creation of workers without rights. But Constantina had the courage to go forward and demand nothing less than her rights for better working conditions and a decent life.
Already, a strong solidarity movement has developed among youth and workers who daily face oppression and recognise themselves in the face of Constantina.
The indifference of the police and the official trade union leadership did not stop dozens of trade unions, women's and anti-racist organisations, and political parties of the left from building up local committees and successful protests in order to open up the issue of precarious labour and to make Constantina's struggle, a workers' struggle.