Workers are ‘fighting for their lives’ as a national, multi-union Greek strike is set to take place

Everybody out

 by The Canary

 23 February 2024

Greece‘s All Workers Militant Front (PAME) has called for “massive militant preparation of the private and public sector” ahead of a public sector Greek strike on Wednesday 28 February.

As Crisis 24 reported:

On February 28, unionized workers will stage walkouts impacting transport, health, hospitality, public administration, construction, and telecommunications sectors. Striking workers could stage pickets in major urban centers near institutional buildings and transport hubs.

The below article is a piece from PAME, guest-posted on the Canary.

Greek strike remembers the victims of Tempe

Now that the workers are suffering from inflation, now is the time and the need to come forward, to organise the struggle with militant initiatives in every sector, in every region, and in the workplaces.

28 February marks one year since the crime train crash in Tempe that claimed the lives of 57 people, most of them students and young children, causing untold grief throughout the country and a lasting open wound to dozens of families. Tears have become rage.

One year later we are making our promise a reality. The crime will not be forgotten. Those responsible must be punished.

We have a duty on 28 February to flood the streets of all the major cities of our country, as we did a year ago.

The attempted cover-up by Hellenic Train and OSE, the EU itself, the ND government and the other ruling parties, SYRIZA and PASOK, must not be allowed to pass. They want the crime to be forgotten because they are all guilty.

Co-opted trade union bosses

That is why their representatives in the leaderships of the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) and the Civil Servants’ Confederation (ADEDY) fought in every possible way against the effort to decide to strike on 28 February. They said “we will not strike for the Tempe”, they proposed other dates in March and April.

It did not pass. The main thing they seek is to cover up the fact that the crime in Tempe was not due to “bad timing” but was predetermined with causes and culprits. They are trying to cover up the criminal policy of the EU and all the governments that implemented it. The policy that measures everything by the profit of the capitalists, even sacrificing human lives.

Work accidents and employer crimes are on the increase. More than 160 workers did not return home in 2023, and every two days we count one worker dead. The policy that treats human life and the safety of the people as a cost, that wants us defenseless in the face of natural disasters, and the protection of our health – proposing again a lot of “individual responsibility” – must get a militant response.

Inflation: out of control

Inflation is sweeping away wages and the people’s income.

Inflation is getting worse and the working-people’s income is not enough to cover the needs for basic necessities, food, electricity, bills, and expenses.

We are watching prices on basic commodities increase daily.

The price of olive oil has shot up by 58.5%, while the price of fruit (15%) and vegetables (14%), food, water, soft drinks and fruit juices have risen by double digits. Similarly, heating oil (13.7%) is moving non-stop, while significant increases are recorded in pharmaceuticals (11.8%), airline tickets (10.2%), and transport in general. The price of a kilowatt hour has doubled compared to 2020. Rents and loan instalments have increased by 30%.

The purchasing power of workers has fallen by 15% in the last two years.

The government: backing big business

At the same time, the 500 largest business groups in Greece have secured huge profits, breaking record after record, especially the business groups of supermarkets, energy, transport, and banking.

The measures that the government is taking to deal with the waves of price rises are a mockery on the one hand – since they do not cover the needs – and on the other hand they reproduce the causes of the price rises, since neither product prices are being reduced, nor are workers’ wages being increased, nor are taxes being abolished for the people, which would be a great and immediate relief.

The policy defended by the New Democracy government and the parties that support the system of exploitation allows the business groups, which pull the strings in setting prices and controlling the markets, to increase prices whenever and as much as they want to multiply their profits.

The process of adjusting the minimum wage, where any small increase given by the government will be wiped out by the price increases, is part of this process.

Workers suffering

At the same time, people of labor are losing their lives and their homes having to face the full range of repressive mechanisms. There are thousands of auctions of people’s houses for the benefit of the investment funds, banks and various predators.

Farmers sell cheap yet we buy very expensive in supermarkets. Thousands of farmers in our country and across Europe are facing problems of survival. That’s what they are fighting for: their bread and their rights. They are demanding compensation for the income lost due to the reduction in production caused by by weather and disease. They are fighting against the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy which leads to a big increase in production costs!

Healthcare and education decimated

Health and education at the mercy of the profitability of the few.

In healthcare, despite the great shortages in hospitals and primary health care doctors and nurses are resigning en masse when a multitude of hospital workers are on fixed term contracts, medicines have become very expensive.

In education, commercialisation is growing with the privatisation of universities and the imposition of entrance exams in all grades of high school. Thus the popular family will groan to be able to find a place for their child as for the many there will be multiple exams and “cut-offs” for admission, while for the few who can afford it, the doors of university studies will open with a blast.

No engagement and no participation in the war

While critical infrastructure and important personnel in health, education and social services are lacking, the government chooses to pay €7bn a year for NATO armaments and war missions that involve our country even more deeply in the imperialist plans of the USA – NATO – EU.

Such is the dangerous decision of the government of the New Democracy, to take over the command of the war operation in the Red Sea through the Larissa General Headquarters, with the participation of our country’s military – naval forces 2,000 kilometers away from the borders. At the same time the genocide of the Palestinian people continues unabated by the murderous state of Israel with the danger of a generalised conflict in the entire Middle East.

So, on 28 February we are fighting for all our lives – in Greece and beyond.

Greek strike: workers, come out in the open

It’s time for the workers to come out in the open. To respond with a militantly assertive struggle to the wall that is rising in front of us. To overtake the trade union forces in the GSEE and ADEDY who are trying to impose silence.

These forces have chosen the opposite camp from the workers. They talk about the Recovery Fund, cultivating the notion that the sums that come in and out of it can be used for people’s needs and wages.

The leadership of the GSEE tells us that the inflation is due to the lack of controls by the competition commission and that workers must sacrifice their rights so that the business groups can profit. That is why, moreover, for 12 years now it has handed over the institution of the National General Collective Labour Agreement to the business groups and the state.

By putting the brakes on the strike action, they are giving the government time and space to pass crucial anti-people legislation in the next two months.

All unions in the battle to organise the Greek strike

We call on all trade unions to get together in the workplaces, to discuss at the start of shifts, at breaks, at work with workers. To call for meetings, General Assemblies, to listen to the workers’ anxieties and concerns, their demands. To speak their minds and step forward for their own lives. To build the ground for the uplift of struggle, to throw away once again the law of the government that wants the unions to be controlled by it and the strikes canceled by the courts.

The strike is put forward as a necessity. We all have a place in this strike front. All of us who recognise that the situation is getting worse for workers.

The strike mobilisations of trade unions in a number of workplaces and sectors, the diverse mobilisations of the farmers and their blockades, the student occupations and demonstrations, the rallies of pensioners, show the path we must take. A workers’ and peoples’ river of demands against the policies of the government, the EU, and the business groups must be built up.

“Their profits or our lives”

Now we must take the fight for wages and collective agreements in our hands, the struggle against inflation and the unpopular policy that counts our needs as costs. No Federation, no Regional Union Centre, no trade union can be left out of this struggle.

No one alone. Decisive strike uprising with the slogan:

Their profits or our lives.

Greek strike: the demands

We demand:

  • Substantial wage increases. Abolition of anti-worker laws and restoration of collective bargaining in the unions.
  • Increase the minimum wage to €900. A clause to adjust wages according to inflation. Universal reintroduction of triennials incorporating the period 2012 – 2023. Restoration of the principle of the most favourable contract, post-employment, etc.
  • Restoration of Christmas and Easter bonuses for civil servants. Unemployment benefit at 80% of the minimum wage for all unemployed.
  • Fixed work with rights, seven hours – five days – 35 hours. No tolerance for flexible forms of employment and unpaid overtime. Cheap electricity for the people. With the abolition of indirect taxes (VAT, Special Consumption Tax) and a cap on energy and fuel prices. Abolition of the Energy Exchange. Abolition of VAT and a cap on the prices of consumer goods such as food, baby products, personal hygiene products, etc. Tax-free limit of €12,000 plus €3,000 for each child. Abolition of presumptions of living.
  • Abolition of ENFIA for working households. Do not pass the reactionary bill on private universities, no thought of revising article 16. Exclusively public and free modern studies, guarantee free food and accommodation for students.
  • Guarantee by the state of free, full and unhindered health care and hospitalisation for all. Free of charge all medical, diagnostic, laboratory, preventive examinations, all medicines, and vaccines. No department, clinic, hospital or health centre should be closed or merged. To fully reopen the hospitals, all the structures that were closed due to cuts. No to NATO spending – no involvement of Greece in the imperialist wars. Decisive strengthening of state funding for Health, Education, Welfare, social policy services of municipalities, for protection from natural disasters. Massive recruitment of permanent staff in all these critical sectors.
  • Stop here and now the disgraceful auctions of people’s homes. Rent subsidies by broadening the inclusion criteria and increasing the subsidy.

On 28 February – all out on Greek strike.

Featured image supplied