Greece: Martial law ends ferry workers’ strike

On 5 February the Greek government deployed military-style conscription against striking maritime workers to force an end to their industrial action.

The ferry workers are fighting against wage cuts, job losses and months’ long non-payment of salaries.

The industrial action badly effected ferry crossings to Greece’s myriad islands. But on the evening of 5 February, the police were mobilised under emergency legislation to break up picket lines.

This draconian 2007 legislation allows the government to rule strikes illegal and to place the workers under ‘civil mobilisation’.

Workers are threatened with being forced back to work and face sacking and possible imprisonment. The New Democracy-led government used the same anti-democratic legislation recently against striking Metro workers in Athens.


Successive Greek governments have deployed the legislation against workers in essential services since the country’s economic crisis began.

It shows the lengths to which the Greek ruling class is prepared to go to force through the programme of the Troika (the International Monetary Fund, European Commission and European Central Bank) in return for financial bailouts – policies that save the big banks and financial institutions but which are impoverishing huge parts of the Greek population.

To stop these attacks on fundamental labour rights, an appeal for the mobilisation of the full might of the wider workers’ movement across Greece needed to be made by the trade union leaderships and the Left parties.

Instead, the two main union federations, the GSEE and ADEY, only organised limited regional solidarity action with the maritime workers, on 6 February.

The setback for the ferry workers will only encourage the New Democracy-led government, with support from its coalition partners, the ‘social democratic’ Pasok and the Democratic Left, to resort again to martial law against the organised workers’ movement.

The Greek government’s actions should also act as a warning to the working class throughout Europe. To force through deeply unpopular cuts and to defend its profits and interests, the ruling class will use ever more coercive, repressive measures against democratic and union rights, particularly the right to strike.

But through their struggles, which are often difficult and painful, workers will draw conclusions about what to do next.

They will conclude that they need to act together and to coordinate mass action. But the current union leaders resist this.

Therefore workers need to take initiatives from below, to force the unions to take determined action to overturn the government’s policies and to drive them out.