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Greece: Workers’ struggle and solidarity

by Moisis Litsis

We are living in a humanitarian crisis in Greece.

The official unemployment rate has surpassed 20 percent. For 18 to 25 year olds it is 48 percent. The economy has contracted by 7 percent. This is more than the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the European Central Bank, known as the “troika”, predicted.

More than 250,000 people visit humanitarian organisations every day. Many businesses are closing. The central streets of Athens where I live are full of closed shops.

Many people, like me, are officially thought of as employed. But they aren’t paid for months or are paid with delay.

According to the latest official statistics, this affects 400,000 workers.

Some 800 workers at Eleftherotypia, one of the biggest newspapers in Greece, haven’t been paid since August.

Our pensions and salaries have been reduced. And we have been on strike since the end of December.

We have published two issues on our own. We are showing Greek people that we are the real Eleftherotypia, the soul of the newspaper—and our newspapers are better than the old ones.

In the beginning of 2010, people said the problem in Greece was the crowded public sector. People who believed this thought that the troika’s measures could stop things getting worse.

But things have got worse.

Now there is a big problem in the private sector. From May all collective agreements will be abolished. Companies will be able to reduce salaries as they want.

The basic salary was already reduced by 22 percent—from £625 to £487 a month. Now for anyone under age of 25 the basic salary will be reduced to £424. And unemployment benefit will be reduced to £299 a month.

Risk

There’s a risk that people who earn £1,247 a month could see it cut to £582 from May. And they must sign private contracts that won’t give them legal protection any more.

There will only be protection for women who are pregnant—and only while they are pregnant.

People are already begging to work. It’s very difficult to find work. It’s difficult for people at my age to earn a living to feed their families.

Despite all this bad news, Greek workers are still fighting. From 2010 we have witnessed the biggest wave of general strikes since the fall of the dictatorship in 1974.

Last summer we witnessed a flourishing movement of “indignados”. A few weeks ago thousands demonstrated in the centre of Athens outside parliament.

Now we have a new wave of occupations of public hospitals and a new wave of strikes. Steel workers have been on strike for more than 130 days. They are on strike because they don’t want to accept mass layoffs and cuts to salaries.

We are going to lose millions that we paid for our future, for our pension. They are cutting this to give money to the banks.

This is not a Greek problem. We see similar problems across Europe.

We need your solidarity. This is a total war against workers’ rights. I think it’s time to have a European movement against the policies of this catastrophe. No people in Europe should be alone.

We must continue our struggle. We must continue to show solidarity with all workers who are struggling because there is another big risk.

If the left or the trade unions do not succeed, there is a risk that the far-right can succeed. They will use the crisis to preach racism.

A few years ago neo-Nazis were marginal in Greece. Now fascists can be elected into the Greek parliament.

We should coordinate struggle across Europe.

And I call on you to show solidarity with people in Greece.

Moisis Litsis is a journalist at Eleftherotypia. This column is an edited version of a speech he gave at a Unite the Resistance meeting in London last week.

Send messages of support to the Eleftherotypia workers’ committee at ergasiaki.e@gmail.com


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Tue 20 Mar 2012, 18:10 GMT
Issue No. 2295
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