Thousands of transport workers in Greece struck on Monday of this week against the left wing Syriza government’s plans to bring in harsh new anti-union laws.
Workers on the Athens metro, trams and buses, as well as airport baggage handlers joined the strike.
The strike forced airlines to cancel flights from Athens airport, and shut down the capital’s transport system.
It followed a similar mass strike last Friday—the first major strike of 2018—this time also involving hospital workers in hospitals and shipyards. The strike caused huge disruption in Athens, causing major traffic jams.
Some 9,000 workers protested in Athens last Friday against Syriza’s planned new law, chanting “Hands off strikes”.
The new law would impose a 50 percent participation threshold in strike votes.
The Greek GSEE union said it was resisting the new threshold as it “effectively eliminates even constitutionally safeguarded rights such as the right to strike”.
And Odysseus Trivalas, general secretary of the public sector Adedy union, said, “Effectively it will be impossible for workers in factories to have their voice heard.
“These were rights won with sweat and blood more than three decades ago. Banks, industrialists and foreign investors want to deny us them. We won’t make it easy. We will take to the streets.”
The new law is part of a “multi-bill” of changes—that also include welfare cuts—that Syriza was set to force through the Greek parliament on Monday.
The changes are part of the austerity measures and free market reforms that Syriza is implementing at the behest of Greece’s creditors. They are the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund—together known as the “Troika”.
Syriza was elected in January 2015 on a promise to end austerity and defy the Troika, but quickly capitulated to their demands.
Yet Syriza’s austerity measures have provoked some resistance from Greek workers, including a general strike against the attacks late last year.
And they have caused problems inside Syriza too. Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras had to argue with Syriza MPs and activists to support the changes.
Workers Solidarity, Socialist Worker’s sister newspaper in Greece, wrote that Syriza’s drive to pass the bill was a “brutal anti-worker attack”.
“It undermines the propaganda that says the Tsipras government is promoting an end to the memorandum,” it said. “It paves the way for enforcing the memorandum for many years.
“In spite of this, these strikes are organised at the base. The success of Friday’s strike can play a role in escalating workers’ resistance.”