1,500 Greek Hospital Workers March In Athens

Hospital workers marching in Athens with a banner reading: 'With false tears life is not saved – Permanent contracts now for all health workers'

SOME 1,500 hospital workers and doctors, along with delegations from public and private sector trade unions and university students, staged a militant rally and a three-hour stoppage last Tuesday afternoon outside the Health Ministry in central Athens.

They then marched to the Vouli (Greek parliament building).
The rally was organised by the POEDIN trade union federation of hospital staff and nurses and the OENGE hospital doctors’ trade union federation.
Trade union leaders who spoke at the rally condemned the Greek right-wing government’s policies of constantly reducing funds for state hospitals, imposing outsourcing, sacking some 4,500 hospital staff and doctors for not being vaccinated, and keeping wages low.
In times of the Covid-19 pandemic with the Omicron variant rampant, the trade union leaders emphasised, the Greek government of Prime Minister K Mitsotakis instead of building hospitals and hiring the necessary staff, nurses and doctors, they have done the opposite.
Hospitals and wards are being shut down, public funding has been cut this year by over 250 million euros and more and more workers are being laid off.
Last Monday, the Health Minister Thanos Plevris declared that some 4,000 hospital doctors and staff on temporary contracts are to be made redundant.
Plevris is using as excuse the refusal of hospital doctors and staff to be vaccinated.
But the unvaccinated staff are following strictly the pandemic restrictions and carrying out daily self-tests.
Trade union leaders appealed to Plevris to reopen the 10 hospitals that were shut down in Greece following the imposition by the EU of the Austerity Accords in 2010.
But the Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis has declared his intention to shut down or ‘merge’ hospitals.
The Austerity Accords governments of the past decades have succeeded in sacking all hospital cleaners, porters, reception staff and security and replacing them by workers on low wages from outsource firms.
Mitsotakis intends to allow private health firms to operate in state hospitals.
As with the rest of the EU governments, Mitsotakis has adopted the ‘herd immunity’ and ‘we have to live with the pandemic’ disastrous policies as Covid-19 restrictions are being lifted despite the surge of the virus.
Trade union leaders pointed out the havoc which reigns in hospitals as a result of Mitsotakis’ privatisation policies.
They called on workers to ‘fight and fight’ against the government’s policies.
But none of the trade union leaders spell out a clear programme to fight the government’s destruction of the Greek national health service and provide proper protection against Covid-19.
These trade union leaders have refused to co-ordinate their mobilisations with other sections of workers on strike.
They adamantly refuse to call for a general strike and for the overthrow of the Mitsotakis government. Hospital staff and workers have been fighting hard all this period, but all these trade union leaders can do is call protest rallies and three-hour stoppages.
Greek workers are tired of all this talk and this was clear in the attendance to last Tuesday’s rally.
But the will to fight all the way for the overthrow of the Mitsotakis government was evident in some slogans shouted by workers who held trade union banners and demanded a general strike action.
In such conditions the treacherous policies of the Greek Communist Party, who are in the leadership of the hospital doctors’ trade union federation OENGE, are a constant brake to the militancy of the workers’ mobilisations.
The OENGE leaders have refused the call for the nationalisation of the private health sector and for a general strike and are also opposed to calls for occupations.
Several trade unions held elections last month and the results were a huge blow to right-wing trade unionists.
Elections showed a considerable support for rank and file trade unionists and factions who are calling for a united front of all workers and who are opposed to the old reformist trade union leaders who claim that the workers’ movement has been defeated.
It is true that these militants have not a clear perspective of how to get rid of the Mitsotakis government nor of the urgency of our times dominated by the world crisis of capitalism.
Youth unemployment stands at 30% in Greece right now, and this is an official figure that doesn’t reflect the reality of young workers forced to work on ‘flexible’ conditions, on 400 euros a month while the cost of living has rocketed.
Meanwhile, two separate bomb explosions have targeted a journalist and a police union leader in the Greek capital of Athens last Tuesday, according to local media.
Unidentified individuals detonated explosive devices on Tuesday morning outside the residences of Greek journalist Dimitris Kambourakis and the head of the country’s police union, Vasilis Doumas, the state-run news agency AMNA reported.
Security camera footage of the attack on the home of Kambourakis shows a hooded and masked figure placing an explosive device made of small cooking gas canisters outside his apartment building in the quiet southern suburb of Argyroupoli at about 2.30am local time (00:30 GMT).
‘I was asleep when I heard a crack and a bang. I went outside and the entire door was on fire. One of the canisters had not exploded,’ Kambrouakis told Skai television.
At about the same time, a similar homemade bomb went off in the central Athens district of Kypseli, outside the home of Doumas.
In a statement to the news website Kathimerini.gr, Doumas said he believed the assailant or assailants targeted him for his ‘opinions’.
‘The counter argument cannot be in the form of fire and a threat to life,’ he said.
The bomb explosions damaged the facades of buildings in both neighbourhoods.
Police have launched investigations into both incidents, AMNA said.

  • The bodies of twelve refugees who froze to death were found near Turkey’s border with Greece, the Turkish interior minister said on Wednesday, accusing Greek border guards of pushing them back over the frontier.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said that the 12 were among 22 migrants who were pushed back into Turkey by Greek border guards.
He said they were found near the Ipsala border crossing between Turkey and Greece ‘without shoes and stripped of their clothes’.
The minister didn’t provide further details, but shared blurred photographs of eight of the recovered bodies, including three in shorts and T-shirts.
Soylu accused Greek border units of acting as ‘thugs’ toward migrants while showing sympathy toward members of a network – which Turkey says is behind a 2016 failed military coup – who have escaped to Greece.
He also accused the European Union of being ‘helpless, weak and inhumane’.
The governor’s office for Edirne province, near the land border with Greece, said the deceased included a migrant who died in a hospital after being rescued by Turkish authorities.
Turkey frequently accuses neighbouring Greece of illegally pushing back migrants wanting to make their way into Europe.
Greece denies accusations that it carries out so-called pushbacks that prevent migrants from applying for international protection.
Turkey, which hosts about 3.7 million Syrian refugees, is a major crossing point for migrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa seeking a better life in European Union countries.
Most try to cross into Greece by either crossing the north eastern land border or cramming into smuggling boats headed for the eastern Aegean Sea islands.
Recently, smuggling gangs have even been piling migrants into yachts heading from Turkey to Italy. Dozens of migrants have died in the central Aegean last month.
Turkey’s own treatment of refugees is barbaric.
The EU now wants to fund ‘border control’ at Turkey’s eastern frontier as part of efforts to deter refugees from coming to Europe.
The draft debated by EU leaders calls for 3bn euros (£2.5bn) from the EU budget to fund refugee aid and migration policy in Turkey, with an unspecified part of the money earmarked for border control.
The EU is seeking to update its 2016 pact with Ankara, a controversial deal where the bloc agreed to spend 6bn euros on Syrian refugees in Turkey, in exchange for greater efforts from Turkish authorities to stem the flow of migrants into Europe.
The commission suggests spending a further 3bn euros on migration programmes in Turkey, where at least 3.7 million Syrians live, with 2.2bn euros for refugee aid in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
But proposals in the draft that EU funding should move beyond an exclusively humanitarian focus – including ‘funding for migration management and border control, notably at Turkey’s eastern border,’ according to its text – is likely to draw fire from those who argue the EU is building a ‘fortress Europe’ that rides roughshod over the rights of asylum seekers.
About 400,000 refugee children in Turkey are not in school, leaving them vulnerable to mental health problems, child labour, child marriage and other forms of exploitation, according to Unicef.
Some of the EU’s proposed 3bn euros for Syrian refugees in Turkey would be used to fund ‘the most urgent needs of refugees and host communities’, the document states, referring to health services, education, social protection, skills development and job creation, but the split of funds between these socio-economic projects and border control is not specified.
Tineke Strik, a Dutch Green MEP who focuses on migration, told The Guardian newspaper that the latest commission plan posed a lot of human rights questions. ‘It is very good that these countries are getting more money. The problem of course are the conditions in granting this money. It is clearly aimed at keeping everyone there and to prevent the departure of people to the EU.’
She fears the EU would be funding Turkish authorities’ illegal ‘pushbacks’ of refugees fleeing Syria, Iran and Iraq.
‘At the eastern border we know that not all Syrians are safe in Syria at the moment … and it would mean that people cannot leave the country any more, even if there would be a need for protection.’
Asylum seekers coming from Iraq and Iran would also face ‘a lot of difficulties in asking for protection’, she added.
‘This is really problematic and with such a deal you increase the incentives for Turkey to close its border … that would actually mean that we would fund pushbacks and prevention of entrance into Turkey.’