Socialist Worker

Greek workers won’t pay for bosses’ crisis

by Matthew Cookson
Issue No. 2188

Workers marching during a strike in Athens in December (Pic: Workers Solidarity)

Workers marching during a strike in Athens in December (Pic: Workers Solidarity)

Workers across Greece’s public sector are set to strike over cuts on Wednesday and Thursday of this week.

Greece has become the front line of the battle over who will pay for the economic crisis – bosses or workers.

Europe’s ruling class is demanding that the Greek government imposes harsh austerity measures that will devastate jobs, services and workers’ living standards.

This will then become the example for all other governments to follow.

But Greek workers are refusing to accept the cuts. If they force the government back then workers across Europe will see that resistance can win.

Greece’s national debt is £259 billion, which is more than the country’s entire economy produces in a year. Its budget deficit stands at 12.5 percent.

Economic commentators fear that the “contagion” could reach other weaker economies in southern Europe, such as Spain and Portugal. They are also worried that Austria and Belgium could dip further into turmoil.

Some are even worried that Britain could face a similar fate to Greece, with the Telegraph headlining an article, “There But For The Grace Of God Goes Britain”.

George Papandreou, the Greek prime minister, last week announced plans for a wage freeze for public sector workers alongside a ten percent cut in allowances. He also wants to raise the retirement age.

But the scale of the attacks is provoking resistance.


Customs and tax officials struck for 48-hours last week shutting down the ports and border crossings.

As well as the planned public sector strikes this week, private sector unions are planning to strike on 24 February.

People are angry that they are facing cuts while the bosses and the bankers, who caused the turmoil in the first place, are still making profits.

Seraphim Rizos, a teacher in Chania on the island of Crete, spoke to Socialist Worker. “The idea that we all have to make sacrifices to stop the country going bankrupt is false,” he says.

“We say to the politicians: you’re bankrupt because you gave all our money to the bankers.

“Not everyone benefited from the bailouts so why should we all pay? These policies will make things worse for ordinary people.

“The teachers’ union has held meetings in all the schools in the west of the island.

“People have shown their frustration, anger and disillusionment at the government and the European Union.

“Workers don’t want to pay for this crisis. It’s not fair that the bankers and industrialists still make huge profits.

“Greek teachers have the worst salaries in the eurozone. New starters are paid less than £900 a month.

“There are also going to be cuts in teaching jobs. Thousands of teachers don’t know what will happen to them in August when appointments are confirmed.

“We need socialist policies that scare the bankers, not the workers.”

Health worker Spiros Staikos says, “I work at one of the newest hospitals in Athens. If they get cuts now they will come back for more.

“The majority of workers at the hospital are young, and they have become part of the union as it has fought against the attacks.

“People are very angry. The cuts mean that if someone leaves they are not replaced. Sometimes there are only two nurses for 50 patients.

“We are fighting to ensure that people have proper healthcare. A union meeting last week voted to support this week’s strike and demanded that the hospital gets new staff in to fill the gaps.

“This will be one of the biggest strikes in the public sector.”

Greek workers have beaten off wave after wave of attacks over the last few decades. They will need to use all of their strength to win this crucial battle and should all come out together.

Watch this site for reports on the strike

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Article information

Tue 9 Feb 2010, 18:13 GMT
Issue No. 2188
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