Socialist Worker

Strikes return to Greece ahead of pensions fight

by Panos Garganas in Athens
Issue No. 2477

Port workers on strike against privatisation last week

Port workers on strike against privatisation last week (Pic: Workers Solidarity)


Walkouts by dockers last week were the beginning of a new wave of strikes in Greece. Workers in the biggest ports, Piraeus and Thessalonica, held a stoppage on Wednesday of last week and a 24-hour strike on Thursday against privatisation. 

A contingent from Thessalonica travelled down and joined the Piraeus strikers in a protest outside the ministry responsible. This puts a lot of economic pressure on the government. 

Piraeus in particular is the main port for ships from China bringing containers to eastern Europe.

But even more important is the political pressure against a government in a hurry to implement the austerity deal that came with Greece’s third bailout.

It has now unveiled plans for reforming the pensions system in Greece that would be absolutely devastating. 

If the plan goes through, pensions could be cut by 20 or even 40 percent. This has provoked the unions into calling a general strike for 12 November. 

Significantly, this includes the larger private sector union federation, GSEE, as well as the public sector ADEDY. 

GSEE has been inactive for a year, but the attack on pensions is unjustifiable even for it. The general strike can be a turning point, and it isn’t the only action taking place.

French president Francois Hollande’s state visit to Greece on Friday of last week got no coverage because journalists across the TV and radio sectors were on strike.

A reform on media control and ownership has triggered an attack on their working conditions. 

Redundancies

Many media workers fear redundancies after one of the main private TV stations tried to lay off technicians in the summer. Those jobs were only saved by strikes.

Seafarers were set to strike for 48 hours on Monday and Tuesday of next week over issues including pensions, unpaid wages, and understaffing.

Council workers aim to occupy town halls across Greece on the Wednesday. Understaffing means local authorities’ services can’t cope, leading some to be privatised.

In schools the lack of staff is so severe some children aren’t even able to attend. Schools for disabled children are worst hit. Teachers and parents have protested outside many schools. 

But the teachers’ union is holding back calls for action. 

This is because its leadership is closely tied to Syriza, the left wing party that leads Greece’s government.

The opposite is happening with health workers. They are set to follow the general strike with a nationwide hospital strike.

After Syriza made a U-turn, and began implementing austerity instead of opposing it, many commentators suggested workers would be disappointed. 

Instead workers have responded with anger and a willingness to fight. Workers in Greece have turned to the left. They have voted for the left three times this year.

The European Union, International Monetary Fund and the Greek bosses pressured the left government to forget its promises. 

But voting isn’t the only thing workers can do. Now they are turning to another, more powerful weapon—the weapon of the strike.


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