Panos Garganas, editor of Workers Solidarity, Socialist Worker’s sister paper in Greece, writes on how workers organised a general strike on Tuesday of this week at just 24 hours’ notice
The European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank are demanding a massive cut in Greece’s minimum wage before they release bailout money. This so-called “troika” is charged with stabilising the euro.
Their austerity measures would also mean 15,000 public sector job losses and cuts to health and social security. Greece’s coalition government is under immense pressure to make the cuts. Without a bailout, it looks set to default on its loan repayments next month.
The strings attached to the bailout get worse every day. The latest news is that the bailout money won’t even go to the Greek government. Instead it will be kept in a special account in Frankfurt or Brussels where bankers can withdraw their payments directly.
All this is infuriating Greek workers. But 14 general strikes over the past two years have taught us how to fight.
Details of the austerity package were revealed over the weekend. Unions called a general strike on Monday morning. Networks of activists in every workplace leapt into action to build the strike.
It was a great success despite the short notice and—unusually for Athens—the heavy rain. Syntagma Square in front of parliament was filled with strikers from two feeder marches. The teachers marched in front. They are set to strike again next Tuesday.
Hospital workers look set to decide to strike on that day too.There are many hospitals where workers have decided not to enforce a £4 flat fee that the government is now demanding from all patients.
In one hospital in Kilkis in the north of Greece, workers have gone much further. They held a general meeting of everyone who worked there and resolved not to accept any closures or redundancies. They will run the hospital themselves if the government tries to shut it down.
Unions are set to meet again on Thursday of this week to discuss calling more general strikes. The main demand so far has been on the government to stand up to the troika and refuse to implement wage cuts.
But this would effectively mean rejecting the whole bailout deal, triggering a Greek default. So our demand is to refuse to pay the debt—and to break with the euro.