By Giorgos Pittas in Greece
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Greek general strike takes on anti-union laws

The right wing government wants to clamp down on working class resistance
Issue 2874
Greek workers on general strike on the march with Greek banners

On the march in Greece

Τens of thousands of people demonstrated in Athens, Salonika, Patras, Volos and several other cities in Greece during a general strike on Thursday. 

Workers are confronting a new anti-union, anti-worker law from the right wing government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis. It suggests the criminalisation and arrest of workers on picket lines for “using physical or psychological violence” against scabs. 

It also legalises 13 hours work a day for two different bosses, a six-day working week, working weekends for less wages and other attacks. 

The 24-hour strike was called by public sector union confederation Adedy, several private sector union confederations, the Athens Workers’ Centre and other cities’ workers’ centres. 

The GSEE—the Greek equivalent of the British TUC union federation—didn’t call a strike for the private sector. It opened “dialogue” with the government by suggesting “changes and improvements” for the new law. So in most cities, it was the local Workers’ Centres and unions who took a lead.

In Athens thousands of workers from both the public and private sector attended the rallies. There were firefighters, teachers, health workers, council workers, transport workers, actors and many others. 

All the ferryboats around the country remained at the docks, many banks were closed, and most transport in Athens and Salonika didn’t run.

The day before the strike the judges, supported by the Mitsotakis government, decided that strikes called by air control workers, Athens metro workers, and bus workers were “illegal”.

The Athens Metro administration took legal action against the union even before it had made public a decision to strike.

But that provoked a 24-hour strike—longer than the one originally planned—by the Metro union which paralysed Athens.

The leaders of the bus workers’ union suspended their strike, but told their members to strike if they wanted to. This meant that bus transport wαs partially shut down.

Despite the fact that the right wing New Democracy government was elected for a second time just three months ago, it is facing a crisis. Three ministers have already “resigned” in an attempt to dampen anger that is growing in society. 

During these three months, Greece has faced huge disasters. Wildfires burned around 1.5 million acres and killed more than 30 people—two-thirds of them immigrants who were trying to cross the border with Turkey. Devastating floods followed the fires. 

Thessalia, the main farming area in central Greece, for a whole week actually turned into two big lakes. At least 17 people drowned, and tens of villages were under 3 metres of water.

The rail line connecting Athens with Salonica will take months to be back in service. Thousands of people are homeless and facing diseases without any real help from the state. 

People are in full fury against the cuts, privatisations and pro-corporate policies that have left them unprotected against the climate crisis. And they are also angry at the tremendous rise in prices while wages are stuck. 

“I have worked as a seasonal firefighter for five years,” said George, a firefighter in Athens. “On 31 October, once again, I will have to go to the unemployment office waiting to get hired again for the summer. This is ridiculous,”

“According to government numbers, there are 3,500 firefighters less than there should be in the fire service. With all these environmental disasters the people need us for the whole year. But instead of this I will have to stay without work for another six months,” he added.

During the last weeks this anger turned to action. Unions and the left called protests in the city of Alexandroupoli. where a third of the area was burned by wildfires that lasted for 17 days. 

This was followed by demonstrations in the cities that were hit by the floods in Thessalia. The police brutally attacked them.

There are still strikes in hospitals and big local rallies in towns where the government is planning to close health facilities.

The government knows that soon or later it will have to confront the workers’ movement. That’s why it is pushing through this new anti-labour law to attack strikes. 

And at the same time it plays the racist card, scapegoating refugees for “starting the wildfires” for example. This gives space and builds bridges with the three far right and fascist parties who managed to elect MPs in the new parliament during the last elections. 

But on 18 September, tens of thousands marched in Piraeus, where Pavlos Fyssas was murdered by Nazi Golden Dawn supporters 10 years ago. Big anti-fascist demos took place across the whole country, sending the message that it is the anti-fascist movement that controls the streets.  

This fight will go on. On 8 October there are local elections in Greece. In Athens Ilias Kasidiaris, the still-jailed former Golden Dawn leader, will participate. That’s thanks to the generous decision of the judges and the government, who made it easy for him. 

A radical, anti-capitalist coalition will try to overcome the new 3 percent threshold in order to get seats on the Athens council. Costas Papadakis, one of the anti-fascist lawyers at the Golden Dawn trial, is a candidate, 

These elections and building the anti-capitalist left are very important. But most of all we need the fightback in the streets and workplaces. 

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