German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble flew to Athens on Thursday of last week to make a statement alongside his Greek counterpart Yannis Stournaras.
Schauble was desperate to show that the situation was under control in the run-up to elections in Germany. He claimed that if Greece repays its bailout debts, it will recover.
This might have been more convincing if Schauble hadn’t had to speak behind thousands of riot police enforcing a protest ban around a large section of Athens.
Greece’s government passed a plan for 25,000 job cuts the day before by the narrowest of margins. The vote followed three days of intense strikes by local government workers, a week of protests and a general strike in their support.
That was workers’ response to just 4,000 of the planned sackings.
The government faces a fresh test this week over the future of state broadcaster ERT. It tried to close the broadcaster to cull another 2,500 jobs. But the mass protests and the crisis that followed have already driven one party out of the coalition government. Workers have been occupying ERT and running their own broadcasts for over a month.
The government still has a long way to go to meet the target for job cuts that its international creditors are demanding. Meanwhile the economy is deteriorating. Even the International Monetary Fund admits that austerity has made matters worse.
As workers’ struggles pile on new pressure, Greek activists spoke to Socialist Worker about a battle that could bring the government down.
'Everyone knows this isn't over'
We struck for three days last week against plans to sack 4,000 local government workers. People have struck a lot—both in general strikes and in our own disputes.
Many are tired or worried about the wages they are losing. But they know we haven’t lost. People can see that the strikes are making it harder for the government. So when the union consulted us on what to do, we held local meetings and workers overwhelmingly voted for an all-out strike.
Our strike started on the day that the mayors’ organisation was holding its conference. Lots of workers went to their hotel and surrounded it, demanding that they stood with us.
The mayors voted to join the strike, support workers’ occupations in town halls and to close offices that weren’t occupied. There was no local government service for three days.
There was a huge turnout for a general strike on Tuesday of last week. And we protested outside parliament the next day while MPs voted on the sackings.
They only just got it through, by 152 votes in a parliament of 300, but they are going ahead.
Local workers’ meetings called to keep the strike going. But the national union didn’t take a lead, and we ended up going back to work.
Now the summer holiday season is starting and that makes it harder to organise. But everyone knows this isn’t over.
The government is expected to make thousands more sackings by the end of the year. There are all kinds of rumours about who will be the next for the chop.
Workers have agreed to stay in touch so we can respond to any new cuts over the summer. The union will be forced to call more strikes.
And in September it will be the turn of the teachers to strike. They have had a huge presence outside parliament and on all the demonstrations.
Everyone is ready to start again when they are attacked.
Costas Fininis, Vrilissia town hall worker