GREEK workers took to the streets on Tuesday 16th February 2010 in a new wave of strikes and protests against the government’s austerity plan to freeze wages, cut allowances by ten per cent and hike up taxes on fuel, tobacco, alcohol and property.
Lorry drivers and taxi drivers are backing the action leading to panic buying at petrol stations. Striking civil servants blockaded the Finance Ministry in Athens joining customs officials and other local government employees demanding a halt to the attack on wages and pensions ordered by the social-democratic government to deal with the slump in Greece.
Unemployment is at its highest for nearly five years, at just over 10 per cent, and it is very high amongst young people with nearly 28 per cent of 15-to-24-year-olds out of work.
The ruling PASOK (Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement) party says it’s acting to “save the country” from bankruptcy and claims that the previous reactionary New Democracy government had deliberately used complex financial deals to conceal the true size of its public debt.
The scandal has led to calls from the European Parliament for an investigation into the role played by international bankers Goldman Sachs in helping Greece raise €15 billion in a bond sale after arranging a currency swap that allowed the Government to hide the extent of its deficit.
The Greek government appealed to its EU partners for financial assistance at an emergency summit meeting in Brussels last week amid fears that Greece may have to pull-out of the euro. But Franco-German imperialism put little on the table and what they did is tied to further demands for tax rises and cuts in wages and social services.
PASOK premier George Papandreou says his government has no choice but to implement its “stability and reform” package.
But the workers have rejected PASOK calls to tighten their belts to pay for the capitalist crisis. They argue that the Greek capitalists, who made fabulous profits on the backs of the workers, are responsible for the deficits and the debts and they should now pay for it.
Greek unions are calling for a €1,400 monthly minimum wage and €1,120 a month for the unemployed without any strings attached, along with free full medical care and retirement at 55 for women and 60 for men and five years earlier for those in hazardous occupations.
Last week workers in the private and public sector responded to the call of All Workers’ Militant Front (PAME) for a day of action across the country. PAME staged mass rallies in 66 towns while 300 primary and secondary trade unions called their members out. A 24-hour strike on 10th February shut down most of the country including schools, airports and ports, including Piraeus, the biggest port of Greece.
Tens of thousands took part in a mass rally of PAME in Athens outside the Greek Parliament.
The working people condemned the government’s anti-labour, anti-people policy and the role of the government, the ruling class and the European Union that is urging workers to make “sacrifices” to bail the rich out.
Speakers included textile workers’ union leader Vasilis Stamoulis and Greek communist leader Aleka Papariga along with leaders from the All Peasants’ Militant Rally (PASY) and the self-employed workers’ federation.
Aleka Papariga dismissed the pleas of the government for support for its “stability” programme.
“Do not pay any attention to what they are saying,” she declared. “The rescue of bankers, industrialists, and merchant wholesalers is the only thing they care about...they will bring in even worse measures unless the working people stop this wave of measures; unless they defy the dictates of the government”.