35,000 Greek public & private sector workers take part in mass rallies

School students of the arts and music Athens schools in Wednesday’s strike march. Banner says ‘The State Kills – Rage for the dead’

SOME 35,000 public and private sector workers and students took part in mass rallies and marches on Wednesday in central Athens as part of a 24-hour national strike on the first anniversary of the Tempi train crash, of 28th February 2023, where 57 passengers were killed – mostly students, along with ten railway workers.

The one-day strike was called by the ADEDY (public sector workers’ trade unions federation) and dozens of City Trades Councils and trade union federations.

Mass rallies and demonstrations occurred in all the main cities of Greece. The strike proved to be the biggest mobilisation since the one-day general strike of last March.

Greek armed riot police attacked youth who threw petrol bombs outside the Vouli. The police attacked the marchers with tear gas and water cannon.

The GSEE (Greek TUC) leaders refused to join the strike and have called a 24-hour general strike for 17 April.

ADEDY and the trade unions have called for the punishment of all those responsible for the Hellenic train crash, including state officials and government ministers.

In the calls for the strike, trade unions have demanded wage rises, a reduction of food, rent and energy bills, collective contracts for all workers, a stop to privatisation, mass recruitment of personnel and cash for the NHS and education.

A petition to the state, initiated by the mother of a Tempi train crash student victim, has now exceeded one million signatures.

It calls for reforms in the Greek Constitution so that government ministers and parliamentary deputies can be prosecuted.

The families of the train crash victims and trade unions have accused the government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis of putting all kinds of obstacles to the parliamentary inquiry into government’s and ministers’ responsibilities.

They have also accused the Greek judiciary of covering up the causes and those responsible for the crash.

On the orders of the Austerity Accords imposed by the EU and IMF on bankrupt Greece, state-owned railways Hellenic Train was sold off for a low price to the Italian state railways.

The rage and class hatred of youth and workers in Greece against the Mitsotakis government – considered as corrupt and imposing barbaric austerity of wage cuts, high food and energy prices, privatisation of the state hospitals and education, mass youth unemployment and police violence – has brought masses of people out on the streets.

In Athens, three different rallies and marches were organised by the ADEDY, the Greek Communist Party’s PAME, and an alliance of left-wing trade unions.

In all these three marches there were very large contingents of local government workers, teachers, hospital workers and transport, airport and port workers.

Big contingents of factory workers participated with their banners.

The 24-hour strike was 100% solid in transport – no ships sailed, no urban transport in Athens except a limited bus service – and in construction shut down.

There was a high participation in the strike by school teachers and local government, whose trade unions are affiliated to ADEDY.

The strike also hit large factories in the Athens-Piraeus area and in Thessaloniki and Larissa, despite the GSEE’s strike-breaking role.

Mass meetings for the victims of the train crash were held at the Thessaloniki and Larissa railway stations. University and school students turned up in their thousands.

Some university students’ occupation banners called for the overthrow of the ‘murderous government’ while school students’ banners stated ‘the state kills’.

Students are continuing their struggle, with occupations and weekly mass marches, against a government Bill to allow private universities which will open the door for privatisation and fees imposed on state universities.

The Greek Constitution allows only state universities, yet the Mitsotakis government, on EU orders, is pushing ahead and is aiming to vote the Bill in ten days’ time.

The hated armed riot police attacked university students at the Hellenic Train central offices as students attempted to fix a banner on the building.

It was clear from Wednesday’s marches of rage and militancy, along with the students’ occupations and mass marches and small farmers’ blockades, that the working class and youth in Greece demand a determined fight against the Mitsotakis government.

They are not satisfied by the trade union leaders’ and the Communist Party’s calls that a ‘militant escalation’ of the struggle means that they have to wait for one and a half months until yet another 24-hour strike of ‘blank shots to the air’ as they put it.

Trade union bureaucrats and Communist Party leaders are content with protest strikes and strolls around Athens.

What workers and students pose is an immediate fight for the overthrow of the Mitsotakis regime of barbaric austerity.