Socialist Worker

Greeks strike out at unpaid wages

by Panos Garganos in Athens
Published Tue 10 Jan 2012
Issue No. 2285

Workers across Greece’s Attica region plan to walk out on Tuesday of next week in solidarity with three all-out strikes.

The most important of the three involves steel workers who have been on strike for more than two months. The Attica area includes the cities of Athens and Piraeus.

The 17 January regional strike has been called by the Elefsina labour centre, which covers private sector workers and industrial parts of the public sector. Greek unions are organised in national federations and through local labour centres.

Elefsina called a similar strike in the region on 13 December last year. It was the biggest across the region since the 1970s.

The second of the three all-out strikes is over unpaid wages at Eleftherotypia, one of Greece’s main left wing daily newspapers.

The owners of the paper, which is roughly equivalent to the Guardian, have filed for protection from its creditors.

Publishing

Journalists, printers and technicians have all joined the action, and occupied the paper’s offices.

Strikers are due to decide later this week whether to start publishing the paper themselves. A smaller financial newspaper, Investor’s World, has already started to do this.

The third all-out strike is at Alter, a TV station. Workers are striking and occupying—again over unpaid wages.

When the strike began, workers broadcast a written statement on screen explaining why they had walked out.

They then started broadcasting the messages of solidarity they had received and their own solidarity messages to other strikes.

Now this has escalated to broadcasting video about their industrial action. These are small but significant steps towards workers’ control.

The three strikes are important because of the amount of solidarity they have been generating, together with the shift towards workers’ control.

The huge solidarity wave has focused primarily on the steel workers. They were out over the Christmas holidays.

The steel plant has its own left wing union which is affiliated to a union federation run by the Communist Party.

The union leadership is backing the strike, but the rank and file is very much involved in running it from day to day. They hold regular mass meetings.

They organise groups to coordinate solidarity and distribute the food that’s been donated. They organise workers to go out to other workplaces and build the strike on 17 January.

Union leaders are backing the strike, but they are worried at the prospect of losing control to the rank and file.

Meanwhile a massive wave of job losses continues to roll out across both public and private sector. European leaders are demanding that the Greek government makes further cuts.

Many public sector workers have already lost 25 percent of their income. Private sector employers are now pushing for the same kind of cuts.

This isn’t just because of the country’s debt crisis. Bosses are using that crisis as an excuse to mount an employers’ offensive.

Greece’s new government is under pressure to legislate for private sector wage cuts.

Unions have yet to announce further strikes. But with all this going on a general strike not long after 17 January looks likely.


Fighting for survival in the crisis

The situation continues to get worse in Greece. Churches report a sharp rise in people eating at food kitchens.

There are reports of children fainting from hunger at school because their families can’t afford to feed them.

The recession in Greece is entering its fourth year. Some 750,000 workers are jobless according to official figures.

Unions say the true figure is already over a million—and that figure will probably rise by another 200,000 this year.


Article information

International
Tue 10 Jan 2012, 19:50 GMT
Issue No. 2285
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