Socialist Worker

Strikes hit Greece as Syriza sinks to a new low

Big strikes show the potential for workers to smash Syriza’s pensions attack, writes Panos Garganas

Issue No. 2503

On the May Day march in Thessaloniki last Sunday

On the May Day march in Thessaloniki last Sunday (Pic: Workers Solidarity)


Greece’s left wing government voted through pension cuts demanded by the European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Sunday night.

Only MPs from left party Syriza and its right wing coalition partner Independent Greeks backed the measure.

Police attacked a huge protest that was gathering in Syntagma Square outside parliament before the vote, clearing the square with teargas.

Syriza has sunk lower than ever. After it was first elected it made a show of removing barriers from the square so people could protest.

Now it is treating workers the same way the old right wing parties did.

The government’s line is that the pension cuts will be the last of Greece’s austerity. But the EU is using the bailout as leverage to demand more cuts.

Monday saw the start of a special summit of the eurozone finance ministers in Brussels.

They were expected to call for a programme of automatic cuts to go through if Greece fails to meet its near-impossible budget target in 2018.

There is no guarantee that they will release the agreed bailout funds even if they get this.

Greece has looming deadlines for payments to the European Central Bank and the money isn’t there to pay them.

Mobilisations

There were three massive days of mobilisations in the run-up to the pensions vote.

Unions called a 48-hour general strike from Friday. It was solid. Sunday’s May Day rallies fed into the evening rally at parliament.

Refugees stuck in Greece joined the protests. They filled several coaches from a refugee camp in northern Greece to join the march in the city of Xanthi.

Their banner said “Open the borders, open the cities”. They want the blockade of Greece’s borders to be lifted, and the refugees who are in Greece to be accepted there.

The government has tried to force refugees off the streets into camps ever since the EU-Turkey agreement authorising deportations was signed in March.

But to confront the strikes it has had to back down for now on its campaign of repression against refugees.

Some unions were out for longer than the 48 hour strike. Local government workers were already out last Thursday, demanding that more staff are hired to fill the gaps left by years of cuts.

This is a big demand in schools and hospitals and is likely to lead to more confrontations.

Shipping workers stayed on strike until Tuesday morning. Media workers have won a stay of execution on their pension scheme and their struggle to defend it continues.

One popular theme on Sunday was that, even if the pensions bill is voted through, it will remain a piece of paper and not be implemented.

Strikes like these can make that a reality.


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