Socialist Worker

Workers move to stop Greece’s Syriza government backsliding

by Panos Garganas
Issue No. 2453

Dockers walked out at the port of Piraeus on Thursday of last week

Dockers walked out at the port of Piraeus on Thursday of last week (Pic: Workers Solidarity)

The Greek government, led by the radical left Syriza party, is backsliding under pressure from the European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund (IMF). But workers are not taking this lying down.

The government was in talks with EU finance ministers on Monday of last week, and had to pay £544 million in debt repayments to the IMF on Tuesday. 

The EU and IMF are pushing Greece closer to bankruptcy by withholding £5.2 billion of bailout funds in order to force through “reforms”.

Syriza has gone back on its “red line” that there would be no cuts to pensions. It is postponing the promise not to tax the first £8,700 of workers’ wages.

It has also agreed to privatise one of Europe’s largest ports in Piraeus, near Athens, and now the EU wants it to privatise energy too.

But workers at the formerly state-owned Hellenic Petroleum refinery have seen what privatisation means. An explosion there severely injured six workers on Friday of last week. On Saturday the whole refinery went on strike.

And the Piraeus dockers struck on Thursday of last week (see below).

Sacked workers marched into the offices of state broadcaster ERT in Athens on Monday of this week. 

Government legislation passed to get their jobs back will take time to implement. Workers were told they would return piecemeal, in alphabetical order. 


So the union decided to implement the legislation itself. Workers also demand the service is fully reinstated. And they are defending their union after harsh criticisms from leading Syriza MPs.

Hospital unions have called a national strike for Wednesday of next week. Their call for money to address understaffing clashes with the EU’s demand for cuts.

The government is asking every public sector body to put their money in the Bank of Greece so it can be used for debt repayments. And when they are out of money unpaid wages are the result.

Syriza isn’t only backsliding on austerity. It is sending fighter planes for exercises with Egypt’s counter-revolutionary president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

And foreign minister Nikos Kotzias invited MPs from the fascist Golden Dawn to a defence select committee—even as they stand trial for their party’s violent attacks.

But there is too much opposition for the government to sign up to a deal that continues austerity. 

The last government did, and the result was its collapse. 

Prime minister Alexis Tsipras has said he could put a deal to a referendum. But polls suggest that to win it he would have to use the votes of right wingers to defeat opposition from Syriza members.

So it’s not just a question of the government cutting a deal with the EU. The final word will be what people say with their fightback.

Panos Garganas is editor of Workers Solidarity, Socialist Worker’s sister paper in Greece

'We get huge solidarity'

Nikos Georgiou, president of the dockers’ union at Piraeus port, spoke to Socialist Worker. 

We are striking to stop the government privatising the ports.

They should be in public control, but they are being given to monopoly capitalists.

Bosses used employment agencies to get in unskilled workers on low wages with no union rights. But we struck together, in the public and private sectors, to win them union recognition.

We are fighting this in court, and building strikes, protests and information campaigns. We get huge solidarity from ordinary people.

If a government that calls itself left continues neoliberal policies then we will resist it.

This crisis is a product of the capitalist system. Rather than sell off the ports, we should turn our fire on that system.

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Translated by Despina Karayianni

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