During the massive protests against the IMF/EU assault on the Greek working class yesterday, a bank was burnt down, and three workers trapped inside were killed.
This event has been mercilessly exploited over the course of the day by the Greek government, and by the right wing media, who are preparing the way for possibly justifying a military crackdown against the people. George Papandreou, the Greek Prime Minister responsible for pushing through the surrender to the IMF and EU, said:
“We are all deeply shocked by the unjust death of three workers, three of our fellow citizens, who were victims of murderous attacks.”
His comments were quickly echoed in media outlets around the world keen to talk about “murderers” and “murderous hooded youths.”
Let’s be clear, no one participating in demonstrations today set out with the intention to murder other workers. The government is desperate to distract attention from their historic sellout of the Greek people. But the internet is proving a key weapon of those same people in getting the truth out to the world. That’s why we’re reproducing here a statement by one of the co-workers in the bank, who worked alongside those who died today. It’s vital reading, and please do copy it, show it to other people, put it on your own blog etc.
“I feel an obligation toward my co-workers who have so unjustly died today to speak out and to say some objective truths. I am sending this message to all media outlets. Anyone who still bares some consciousness should publish it. The rest can continue to play the government’s game.
The fire brigade had never issued an operating license to the building in question. The agreement for it to operate was under the table, as it practically happens with all businesses and companies in Greece.
The building in question has no fire safety mechanisms in place, neither planned nor installed ones – that is, it has no ceiling sprinklers, fire exits or fire hoses. There are only some portable fire extinguishers which, of course, cannot help in dealing with extensive fire in a building that is built with long-outdated security standards.
No branch of Marfin bank has had any member of staff trained in dealing with fire, not even in the use of the few fire extinguishers. The management also uses the high costs of such training as a pretext and will not take even the most basic measures to protect its staff.
There has never been a single evacuation exercise in any building by staff members, nor have there been any training sessions by the fire-brigade, to give instructions for situations like this. The only training sessions that have taken place at Marfin Bank concern terrorist action scenarios and specifically planning the escape of the banks’ “big heads” from their offices in such a situation.
The building in question had no special accommodation for the case of fire, even though its construction is very sensitive under such circumstances and even though it was filled with materials from floor to ceiling. Materials which are very inflammable, such as paper, plastics, wires, furniture. The building is objectively unsuitable for use as a bank due to its construction.
No member of security has any knowledge of first aid or fire extinguishing, even though they are every time practically charged with securing the building. The bank employees have to turn into firemen or security staff according to the appetite of Mr Vgenopoulos [owner of Marfin Bank].
The management of the bank strictly barred the employees from leaving today, even though they had persistently asked so themselves from very early this morning – while they also forced the employees to lock up the doors and repeatedly confirmed that the building remained locked up throughout the day, over the phone. They even blocked off their internet access so as to prevent the employees from communicating with the outside world.
For many days now there has been some complete terrorisation of the bank’s employees in regard to the mobilisations of these days, with the verbal “offer”: you either work, or you get fired.
The two undercover police who are dispatched at the branch in question for robbery prevention did not show up today, even though the bank’s management had verbally promised to the employees that they would be there.
At last, gentlemen, make your self-criticism and stop wandering around pretending to be shocked. You are responsible for what happened today and in any rightful state (like the ones you like to use from time to time as leading examples on your TV shows) you would have already been arrested for the above actions. My co-workers lost their lives today by malice: the malice of Marfin Bank and Mr. Vgenopoulos personally who explicitly stated that whoever didin’t come to work today [May 5th, a day of a general strike!] should not bother showing up for work tomorrow [as they would get fired].” An employee of Marfin bank.
The bank worker’s union has also called a strike in protest at their deaths, however, they put the blame mainly on the shoulders of the government. “This tragic event that took the life of three of our colleagues, two women and a man, is the sad consequence of anti-popular measures that whipped up pop popular anger,” the OTOE bank employees’ federation said.
“The government has very serious responsibilities, as it seems it failed to take account the scale of the consequences which its decisions would have on Greek society.”
It’s of crucial importance that those of us standing in solidarity with Greece don’t allow the tragic deaths of Greek workers to be used as a propaganda tool that will help push through measures that will lead to (amongst many other terrible things) even more unsafe, deadly workplaces.
Update: In the video below, you can see the owner of the bank, a Mr. Vgenopoulos, arriving just moments after the deaths were confirmed. People repeatedly shout “murderer” at him. Around 43 seconds into the video one of the gathered people shouts: “how many yachts do you own?”, at which point Vgenopoulos signals with his fingers: “three”.
We’d like to ask George Papandreou, the Daily Mail and everyone else pushing the propaganda line on this: who is the real murderer?