Socialist Worker

My life in austerity Greece

Issue No. 2275

Amalia is a 31-year-old living in Athens, Greece.

She worked for a website until earlier this year, earning 715 euros (£620) a month.

During this time she was forced to live with her parents, and share a room with her 29-year-old sister who works in a nursery. She could not afford to live on her own.

Amalia worked for the company since 2008—first as an unpaid intern for seven months, and for a year after that without national insurance contributions from her boss. Only after this was she paid the measly full rate.

She then asked her boss for a pay rise—but instead she was sacked. The company used the economic crisis as an excuse for laying her off.

Amalia now has to live on unemployment benefits of just 461 euros a month—and even this will be taken away after a year.

“If I didn’t have parents, I’d not be able to survive,” she told Socialist Worker.

There has been a programme of sackings in the media, as in other industries. Bosses have also used the threat of redundancy to force workers to sign new contracts with salary reductions of up to 20 percent.

These threat have weakened collective bargaining by trade unions, as people are forced into taking private contracts. The crisis has also been used as an opportunity to sack the most militant workers.

Amalia’s parents are retired—her mother was a nurse and her father worked repairing navy ships.

Amalia’s father receives a pension. This was 2,700 euros a month before the austerity drive came into force, but it recently dropped to just 1,600 euros. They are expecting this to drop further in the near future, as further austerity measures are put in place.

Her mother has a similar story. Her pension dropped from 1,450 euros a month to just 1,170 euros.

Amalia is part of the 16.5 percent who are unemployed in Greece—a figure that is expected to rise with every attack on living standards enforced by the government, and demanded by the European Union, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

For many Greek workers, this is the reality of living with austerity.

“Before the crisis it would take up to three years to get a job,” said Amalia. “But now it is virtually impossible.”

People are now forced to take jobs in the black market, in places like cafes.

“We don’t even talk about pensions any more,” she says. “We talk about surviving.”

But Amalia sees an alternative to the savage campaign of cuts.

“My only hope is the movement of resistance,” she said. “We saw in last week’s general strike that there is a mood for escalation, for an all-out strike and further occupations.

“It’s possible to force the cancellation of Greek debt, and to nationalise the banks and industries, under workers’ control.

“We could even make it illegal for them to sack anybody.”

Amalia is not alone in her horror stories of living under austerity. But as the growing strike movement shows, neither is she alone in her belief that things can change for the better.

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Tue 25 Oct 2011, 17:45 BST
Issue No. 2275
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