Konstantina Kouneva, a Bulgarian migrant worker and trade union leader received extensive injuries when she was attacked on 22 December 2008 in Athens. The attack is allegedly connected with her trade union activities, and followed an escalation of tension between Kuneva and her employers.
As a result of the attack in which two men threw sulphuric acid in her face, Konstantina Kuneva has lost the total vision in one eye, and is left with partial vision in the other. Her vocal chords were also seriously damaged. She remained in a comatose state for several days and continued to be hospitalized at the beginning of March 2009.
Konstantina Kuneva, who worked as a historian in Bulgaria, came to Greece in 2001 to earn money to pay for her son’s medical treatment. While working as a cleaner, she participated in trade union activities, demanding basic rights for workers, and eventually became Secretary General of the Attica Union of Cleaners and Domestic Workers. On various occasions, Konstantina Kuneva criticized the practices reportedly used by employers to exploit workers, including delays in payment of salaries and lack of payment of workers’ social insurance, many of whom are migrants. After taking up the post as leader of the trade union, she received a number of threatening anonymous phone calls. The trade union has reported that workers who stand up for their rights are threatened and reassigned to jobs under even more unfavourable conditions. An official criminal investigation by the police is now underway though the initial findings of the investigation suggest that it is neither thorough nor objective. It is significant for example that the initial phase of the investigation failed to take into consideration her trade union activities as a possible motive for the attack.