Hundreds of police in Athens raided the central metro station early this morning, Friday, which was being occupied by striking workers. They handed every worker an order from the government to return to work or face a prison sentence.
The “political mobilisation” by the state was first announced on Thursday, the eighth day of the metro workers’ strike against pay cuts. It marks a dramatic new escalation of authoritarian measures taken by the Greek government in order to force through austerity.
Solidarity from outraged workers has already begun, with a solid strike on all of Athens’ public transport today.
“The strike is absolutely effective,” said Panos Garganas, editor of the Workers’ Solidarity newspaper. “There are only private cars in Athens today—no buses, no trams and no electric trains.”
And despite government proclamations that public transport would be back to normal by weekend, bus workers have already decided to extend their action at least until Tuesday.
Workers across the publicly owned utilities face a pay cut as part of the government’s latest agreement with the “troika” of the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund last November.
“The government says it can’t afford to make concessions to one group of workers—they say it’s the country’s agreement with its creditors, and that if the strike wins, the troika will stop funding Greece. That’s why they issued these orders and used the police to enforce them.
“But the workers say they have had so many wage cuts up to now, they can’t afford any more. And the widespread feeling is, why should they? Everywhere you go people are saying the government is wrong and the metro workers are right to challenge them.
“The question is how much this feeling translates into action.”
As well as the transport strike, other workers hit by the pay cut have already said they will strike on Monday of next week—including the militant electricity workers’ union. The Metro workers have been meeting with representatives of other unions to call for more.
And two national strikes on Thursday of next week—of hospital workers, including doctors and nurses, opposing closures and of seafarers defending national pay agreements—will be a crucial opportunity for solidarity.