The Socialist 11 August 2005
Defend democratic rights
Greek workers resist neo-liberal attacks
SINCE THE election of the conservative New Democracy government in Greece two years ago, severe attacks have been launched against working-class people.
Eleni, Xekinima (CWI Greece)
But workers have shown their willingness to fight these attacks, with four general strikes over the last six months, the last on 24 July.
Working hours have been annualised in many workplaces. This means that the eight-hour working day has practically been abolished, with many workers having to work up to 12 hours with no overtime payments.
Pensions have also been attacked, yet many pensioners already live in poverty. There are plans to raise the retirement age to at least 65, which is a disgrace, given that the life expectancy of workers in some heavy industries is only 62.
Public-sector workers have been particularly badly hit. The government got the union leaders to agree to 6,000 workers taking early retirement from Greek Telecom, which is still in the public sector. Workers on permanent lifetime contracts will be replaced with casual part-time workers.
The union leaders linked both to Pasok, the social democratic party, and to New Democracy, signed the agreement to set this dangerous precedent for the rest of the public sector.
This brand of fast-track Thatcherism is the biggest attack on the working class since the end of the military dictatorship 30 years ago. The Greek economy is saddled with debt, not helped by the staging of the last Olympic Games in Athens, so the bosses are trying to make the working class pay.
Greek workers are angry and are searching for a political alternative. Pasok provides no alternative and the other Left parties have shown themselves to be incapable of organising a united fight back.
The Communist Party has even organised its own rallies during strikes, like during the three-week long bank workers' strike (much of the banking system is still part of the public sector). The priority must be to build a united campaign against the attacks.
45% of workers are living on less than €500 per month (£345). Most new jobs are low-paid and part time. Unemployment is rising and companies are moving to places like the Balkan states in a search for even cheaper labour. In contrast, even the 'poorest' Greek MP gets a basic wage of €5,000 a month.
Xekinima has been arguing for a programme of properly-organised strikes, to be escalated if there are no concessions. But we also argue that workers must be involved in the organisation of these strikes, with strike committees to ensure the action is properly prepared for. Workers need to know a serious struggle is being organised.
There is a new generation of workers and young people looking for radical socialist ideas. Xekinima is the fastest-growing Left organisation in Greece. We are preparing for the inevitable new struggles ahead.
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