Greece: The deadly effect of work

Walls across Attiki (Athens) and the city of Patras were pasted with 2,000 copies of this poster. The reason that kitchen and home delivery workers at ‘pizza fan’ stores (pizza franchise chain in Greece) made this flyposting was to speak about the death of Bulgarian-born Radka Nikolova at work in the Patras pizza fan store on Aghias Sofias street. Her death was largely and conveniently attributed to heart condition. However, the poster text describes the working conditions during the morning shift (i.e. when Radka lost her life).

We will either raise our voices, or be forced to work ourselves to death

Radka Nikolova, 38, was a kitchen worker in the pizza fan store in Patras. On Monday, January 14th, 2013 she was found dead at work, locked inside the store. Early estimates said the woman died due to heart failure. The story was covered up.

It is relatively known that a heart condition alone is not enough to cause someone’s death. But yes… with a job at pizza fan, our heart does not seem to last long enough.

As men and women employed in these stores, we have experienced first-hand what it means to work in the kitchen. Those of us who have worked Monday mornings for pizza fan know that one person bears an incredible workload. Too heavy deliveries of food products must all be placed in the freezers or refrigerators, supplies that often reach a weight of nearly half a ton. The store itself requires great preparation because it is left almost empty after the weekend, and additionally all spaces must be thoroughly cleaned. On top of all this, the worker has to run errands for the store’s supervisor on that day (i.e. accept deliveries, check the various products, sign paperwork, arrange payments, deal with bank deposits, pick up the phone that is incessantly ringing for different tasks). All the work is done by ONE person.

What’s more, the pressure from employers is equally unbearable. All this is often carried out under the eye of the bosses who monitor their entire store from their homes, through surveillance cameras, and make phone-calls to intervene with on-the-spot remarks.

At the time of her death in the workplace, Radka was probably an undeclared worker just like many of the workers in pizza fan chain stores.

Pizza fan is not the exception but the norm in catering businesses and restaurants as in many other sweatshops whose profits rely on our ever-tougher exploitation.