A potent strike by Greece’s truck drivers last week marked a new stage in the fight against austerity measures being imposed on the country’s people.
Disgracefully, it saw the Pasok government, similar to New Labour, use troops against the truckers.
But it also saw strikers defy legal and physical threats to continue their action.
The truck drivers’ six-day strike had a huge impact on the country, with fuel supplies drying up, food not being distributed and tourists stranded.
Pasok used emergency laws to order the truckers back to work on Wednesday, stating they would face fines and have their vehicles requisitioned if they did not.
When the majority of drivers refused to return to work, the government sent in the army to supply fuel to airports and power stations.
The militant action saw truck drivers clashing with police. The drivers only returned to work after the government promised negotiations over its plans.
They voted by a narrow margin at a general assembly in Athens on Sunday to end their action.
“The leadership of the truckers’ union used the government’s promise to postpone the reading of the bill to say that they should go back to work,” said Costas Pittas, a trade unionist in Athens.
“The more militant section, mostly younger drivers, wanted to continue.
“Even though the strike is off, many drivers say that they could be out again if the government does not retreat.
“The result of the action is kind of a draw.”
The International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Commission and the European Central Bank—known as the “troika”—are demanding that the Greek government opens up businesses such as the haulage industry to the free market.
This is part of the austerity measures that have to be pushed through to ensure that a 110 billion euro loan is given to the government.
A wave of attacks have devastated workers’ living standards, but have faced widespread resistance.
The truck drivers joined the fightback, angry that the government plans to increase the number of trucking licences.
While using the language of breaking up vested interests, the result would be to strengthen big corporations and to allow major firms to take over the system.
Fotis, a truck owner in Larissa, said, “The opening up of the trade means a much bigger invasion of the corporations into the transport industry. As we saw with the privatisation of the ports, that means higher fares and fewer jobs for the workers.”
Costas said, “At a very angry general meeting on Friday truck drivers voted to continue with the strike, and marched to parliament, chanting, ‘You are thieves’.
“The government’s use of the legal order was a dress rehearsal for the upcoming battles in the autumn. This didn’t work.
“The troika, which has just been in Greece, is demanding that the power and rail industries are privatised, which workers there will resist.
“The truck drivers could be out again too—making for a big struggle against austerity.”
It’s crucial that, whatever section of the movement fights, it gets the full support of everyone else.