Greek unions have called a general strike for Wednesday of next week, as the fightback against austerity across Europe hots up. Some workers are threatening to escalate this to a three-day stoppage.
Across the continent, enraged working class people are returning to the streets. Mass demonstrations have taken place in Greece, Spain and Portugal over the last two weeks. More are planned for Italy on Friday of next week, Germany on Saturday of next week and in France the following Sunday.
The Greek general strike follows a nationwide strike of school, hospital and local government workers. Panos Garganas, editor of the Workers Solidarity newspaper in Greece, says Greece’s union leadership is under enormous pressure to step up the action.
He said, “First, there is the pressure from the Troika—the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission.
“They agreed a bailout for Greece known as the ‘memorandum’. They want to impose more austerity. The government was elected after promising they would make the memorandum less harsh. Now they are negotiating to make more cuts.
“Second, there is pressure from workers. People are not just angry—they’re on the move.”
The Troika and government agreed that what used to be the main savings bank—the Hellenic Postbank (TT)—must be sold off. Striking workers responded by occupying the bank’s headquarters last week.
Transport unions were set to strike on Thursday of this week to defend workers’ conditions and oppose fare rises. On the same day, thousands of metal workers plan a 24-hour national strike.
In Greece’s largest shipyard, workers have not been paid for months. But they are also striking to defend their pension fund—the same pension fund as hotel workers, who will join the strike.
And finance workers were set to strike on Friday of this week. Panos explained, “The government claims things across Europe are improving.
“But even if cuts in Greece are delayed they will still be forced through. The government claims aren’t cutting any ice. Our general strike will not be the end of the story.”
There were huge protests in Spain and Portugal on Saturday of last week. In Spain protesters converged in Madrid to oppose government cuts. A coalition of trade unions and other organisations called the action.
Sam Robson marched with the “critical block”. He told Socialist Worker, “Our slogan was, ‘We don’t owe it so we won’t pay it’. There was a really combative atmosphere.”
The march was fed by fury at an increase in VAT earlier this month. Spain’s Indignados movement is calling for protests to surround the parliament building on Tuesday of next week.
And around 40 cities in Portugal were hit by the biggest protests for decades, after the government announced a national insurance hike.