The employment minister responsible for implementing controversial pension reforms in Greece, Vassilis Magginas, resigned last Saturday following a general strike that brought the country to a standstill.
Officially he resigned due to a personal scandal involving the alleged employment of uninsured immigrant workers at his holiday home. But his hasty departure was widely seen as a victory for the movement.
Greece was paralysed for 24 hours on Wednesday of last week as every workplace, from bus garages to airports and shipyards to hospitals, was shut down.
Huge demontrations took place in every major city. It is estimated that half a million strikers took to the streets.
In Athens the demonstration was headed by the entire workforce of Olympic Airlines in their uniforms.
Striking post workers were out in force. And there was a strong contingent of workers from power stations in their orange hats.
There were wild cheers from the crowd when these workers used their ladders to climb up lamp-posts and blind police cameras that had been ordered to spy on the demonstrators.
Overall this was the biggest strike mobilisation in 15 years and it was dominated by the “big battalions” – the most organised sections of the working class.
Striking lawyers, doctors, journalists and engineers added an extra dimension. But the picture that appeared on the front page of every paper the next day was of a group of women workers from a small garment workshop.
They marched under a red banner with the slogan “Hands off women” signed by Workers Solidarity, Socialist Worker’s sister paper in Greece.
The New Democracy right wing government’s pension “reform” plan specifically targets retirement by women before 60. It aims to reduce the number of workers who currently qualify for early retirement.
It also forces the pension funds of various professions to be consolidated into a handful of groups. Managers of the funds will be appointed by government decree.
There was a wave of scandals this year with pension funds losing millions when they were invested in bonds under government guidance.
Journalists, doctors, engineers and lawyers will be out on strike again on 19 December. And the Greek TUC (GSEE) is promising further action in the New Year if the government pushes its plans through parliament.
Greece saw its biggest student wave of occupations in 2007. It looks like 2008 may be the year of the workers.
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