Biggest Strike Yet
While Greece remained relatively quiet during the global day of action on October 15, there was a good reason for this. Activists, unions and action groups around the country were in the throngs of a massive week of strikes and direct actions that are set to culminate tomorrow into the second 48-hour general strike in just four months. The Christian Science Monitor reports:
The streets of Athens are filled with tension, and garbage.
Sanitation workers, along with nearly all other civil servants, are on strike, leading to heaping piles of trash on corner after corner.
But all Athenians are tensely bracing themselves for three key events this week in the ongoing tragedy that is the Greek sovereign debt crisis.
The national newspapers proclaim in large 40-point type “Hellish Week,” or more sarcastically “It Begins — the Week of Thrills.” Both are a reference to a massive 48-hour strike, beginning Wednesday, that may bring out as many as 50,000 to 60,000 protestors.
The protest is timed for a controversial vote in parliament, scheduled for Thursday, that would effectively eliminate the minimum wage for millions of workers.
A Greek source in the protest sent us the following overview:
The most impressive event of these days is the squatting of public services by public officers. Last week, the Thessaloniki Water Company workers built the entrance of their headquarters to stop the auctioning (to private contractors) of a portion of the city’s network.
The Electricity Company workers squatted the Bill Issuing office, to prevent the issuing of bills which include an additional “poll tax” demanded by our creditors. The extra tax is around 5 euros per square meter of each house, regardless of the owners’ financial condition. The minister asked the intervention of judicial authorities in order to suppress the squat, and dozens of citizens came to support the unionists. Some 700 people were gathered outside the building until 23.00, amongst them many left-wing and anarchists who came to “defend” the squat. Both the Communist Party and Synaspismos (together good for some 20 percent of the vote) have asked their members and officials not to pay the poll tax, and support citizens against the Electricity company’s attempts to cut the power in their houses, should they refuse to pay.
Two hospitals in Athens, among them the biggest one in the country, are squatted by their doctors, as well as the Ministry of Health.
The same source also sent us the following analysis:
The strike climax is caused by the creditors’ demand to radically change labor relations both in the public and private sector. In the following days, a new legislation will be voted on (99% possibility of a “YES”) by the thin governmental majority.
In the public sector, wages will be cut by 30-50% and 30.000 workers will be fired (it’s anti-constitutional, but who cares?!) in one year. Just to give an example, a newly-appointed high-school teacher will be receiving 660 euros/month.
The only public officers excluded from the wage cut are the police, the army and the … priests (!!!). The Greek church, whose fortune is unimaginable, is practically paying no taxes at all, yet the priests are considered public servants and are paid directly by the state.
In the private sector, the creditors demanded the reduction of the basic wage (~700 euros for people over 25, 540 for people under 25), and all productive branch or corporate agreements to be weaker than individual employment contracts.
In exchange, they will allow Greece to officially default (it is now in a status of “partial” or “temporary” default), and chop down its debt by another 40-60% (a 20% haircut has already been agreed during a July EU summit).
Then, they will privatize practically all Greek infrastructure, including water, electricity, gas, and all public services. It is both tragic and ridiculous, the consortium that rushed into making an offer for the Water Company of Thessaloniki includes companies that were previously involved with the Bolivian water privatization (one might remember that they had pushed a legislation in Bolivia which prohibited residents to gather even rain water!).
Finally, he sent us “some humanitarian news”:
Teachers of an Athenian community department went on a spontaneous demonstration in their neighborhoods’ streets, after the fainting of three students due to hunger, and the suicide of a student’s parent due to financial problems. Apart from the 100% raise in suicides (750 extra per year), various health problems have emerged in the Greek society, including a 30% raise in the AIDS infections and the re-appearance of … malaria (!).