Hospital worker Costas Kadarachias says a new clampdown on workers’ activity in Greece may have backfired
The government is trying to close more than 50 hospitals, out of a total of 133 in Greece.
It doesn’t say so directly. But for three years it has stopped recruiting new doctors, nurses or other workers. Now many of the workers we do have are ready to retire. It has also cut funding.
The state is trying to create the circumstances where it can say that a hospital has no workers, no budget and has to close. Hospital workers have tried to stop this.
Now the Troika—the European Union, the IMF and the European Central Bank—has demanded new budget cuts. This could mean thousands of layoffs.
This is a clear, direct assassination by the government and the Troika. It means in the next years people won’t get the healthcare they need to live.
Hospitals already have big problems. There is a lack of workers and money.
And one effect of general austerity is that more people are coming to public hospitals for treatment.
I work in a cancer hospital, and we have a real problem getting drugs. Last month across Greece there were cancer patients who couldn’t get their medicine. And people have to wait months for surgery.
But they haven’t been able to implement everything, because there has been massive opposition from the people. Over the last three years there have been waves of workers’ struggle in the hospitals.
We have had rounds of strikes and even workplace occupations.
This has changed our unions too. It has broken the hold of the bureaucracy, with workers organising much more from below with strike committees and mass gatherings.
The union is no longer controlled by the bureaucracy but by the militants in the workplace and the anticapitalist left.
Many elections in the union have gone to the left, and particularly the anti-capitalist left. In my hospital we lead the union.
So in my hospital and others we coordinated to make our union federation call a national strike on Thursday of last week, with people from every union coming to march in Athens.
Then we heard that the government had forced the metro workers to stop their strike.
This kind of “political mobilisation” has only been used 17 times in the last 30 years. This time they had no reason to say the strike was illegal.
They did it because they were afraid. They knew that if the strike continued it could expand and threaten their austerity.
But workers didn’t roll over and say okay we will stop striking. This has only made them more angry.
At the hospital, all the workers and the unions said they wanted solidarity. Transport workers in Athens took action straight away.
The most important solidarity was what happened last Thursday. Rail workers, local government workers and hospital workers struck all day, as did the bus workers.
All public sector workers joined in for three hours.
In Athens there had been two different marches planned, but in the end they marched together. There were big and militant blocks of hospital workers.
It was like a mini-general strike called from below.
The government’s reaction will not stop the strike movement in Greece.
Costas Kadarachias is the union branch secretary of the Athens cancer hospital