Electricians defying Greek law to save Lives
by FFE EU News Staff
In the first nine months of the year, around 257,002 electricity disconnections were made in Greece because of non-payment of bills. Many underground electricians have decided to put the power back in their hands by illegal connections, but they are also saving lives in the process.
Electricity disconnections have added to the growing problems of the 1.37m unemployed in Greece. Angry citizens and solidarity committees like Syriza have retaliated by reconnecting their electricity illegally as a sign of protest.
Power distribution company HEDNO said that there have been 3,500 instances of electricity theft in the country, 310 of which were brought to court. Company spokesperson Melina Kalampoka said ‘These illegal reconnections have many negative effects and consequences very often unrecognized, starting with the fact that power theft carries deadly risks.
‘At the same time, these actions are unfair towards all the other legitimate electricity consumers.’
The price of electricity has jumped by 59% since 2007, as Greece continues to impose new taxes as part of their austerity measure. Athens University of Economics and Business economist Manos Matsaganis said that ‘The unemployed and weak were left to their own devices and the burden has fallen on their shoulders.’
Three people have already died in accidents related to the power cutoffs. A 13-year-old died from inhaling toxic carbon monoxide fumes from brazier while an 85-year-old died because of fires caused by candles.
Syriza is looking at the illegal connections as a form of resistance and a way to answer financial injustice. University of Athens economist and Syriza member Euclid Tsakalotos said ‘We see civil disobedience as a bona fide part of European culture.’
Winter has driven many Greek families to desperation, prompting the underground electricians to volunteer restoring power to their neighbourhoods. Thirty-five-year-old John Karampetian has hooked up many homes with illegal electricity. He said ‘It’s immoral to cut electric power. Electric power is something that everyone on the planet should have for free.
Another underground electrician, Stavros, said reconnecting people’s houses is fantastic: ‘You feel better when you help others and you hope others help you.
As a reaction to the deaths connected to the power cutoff, Energy minister Yannis Maniatis announced local government and state-controlled electricity provider PPC is creating teams that would assess households that need power the most and restore them. Soup kitchens and social services will also receive a 70% cut from their electricity prices.
Anti-bailout lawmaker Vassilis Kapernaros of the Independent Greeks party lamented on the fact that the cutoffs have reached December when temperatures are dropping. He added ‘it’s a shame to have families without power.’
The Parliament is expected to vote on the country’s 2014 budget by Saturday. Some of the provisions aim to cut spending further to meet fiscal goals.