From the TUC

Unions protest at Greek austerity: economy and democracy now under threat

12 Feb 2012, By

Protestors and police in Athens, January 2012

Protestors and police in Athens, January 2012. Photo: Mehran Khalili

Greek unions are just concluding a 48-hour General Strike and mass protests against the austerity measures which will be discussed in Parliament on Sunday 12 February. Unelected Prime Minister Lucas Papademos has warned of dire consequences if the austerity measures are not adopted, but Greek unions point out that dire consequences have already happened, with one in five adults out of work, and the austerity measures on offer will make matters even worse – and that’s if Greece’s creditors, like the European Commission, don’t demand even more.

How much more do the bankers and Europe’s right wing governments think the Greek people will take? How much more do they think the Greek economy, now in its fifth year of recession and getting worse, can take? And what price democracy in a country already run by an unelected PM, where the only winners electorally seem to be the extremists? PASOK’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mariliza Xenogiannakopoulou quit on Friday afternoon, accusing the government of fixation on attacking labour rights, following the PASOK Deputy Labour Minister on Thursday, although the social democratic party remains part of the governing coalition.

The austerity measures being discussed this weekend include:

  • 15,000 more public-sector job cuts;
  • liberalisation of labour laws; and
  • lowering the minimum wage by 20% from 751 euros a month to 600 euros.

ETUC General Secretary Bernadette Ségol, sending solidarity to Greek trade unions GSEE and ADEDY, commented:

“The new austerity package being discussed to avoid a default by Greece is unacceptable. Greek workers and citizens have been pushed to the limit of what is acceptable in terms of restrictions. Successive austerity plans have plunged the country ever deeper into crisis. The new measures being considered are simply not defensible: reduction in the minimum wage, cuts in supplementary pensions and immediate job cuts in the public service. Labour law is being flouted and men and women are being crushed in the process. We warn all those who are putting pressure on Greece or justifying such pressure: workers cannot take any more.”

Meanwhile the ITUC has written to the IMF, the ILO and the Greek authorities, asking the organisations involved and the government to cease attempting to impose the current reforms and to seek instead a productive dialogue based upon a pro-growth strategy to build a consensus-based recovery in Greece. ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said:

“Legitimate social dialogue and internationally recognised workers’ rights have been cast aside. Far from achieving a jobs recovery, this is going to condemn Greece to years more austerity accompanied by a rise in unemployment, informality and insecurity in the workplace.”