GREECE: 50bn Euros sell-off to repay loans

Greek workers march against the EU and IMF-ordered cuts that are destroying jobs, pensions and living standards
Greek workers march against the EU and IMF-ordered cuts that are destroying jobs, pensions and living standards

At a press conference last Friday the Greek Finance Minister Yiorghos Papakonstantinou announced the main points of the revised IMF-EC Accord that calls for immediate extensive privatisations, education, health and welfare cuts, wage and pensions reductions, spread of ‘flexible’ working conditions and mass sackings.

At the centre of Papakonstantinou’s programme is the sell off of land, beaches and islands to raise 50bn euros by the end of 2015 to pay back state borrowings and interest rates.

At the same time, the European Commission published a Report on Greece that contains all measures and timetables in some detail that the Greek government must follow.

These announcements come a day after the colossal general strike march in Athens which demanded the overthrow of the government, and following Greek Prime Minister Papandreou’s abortive meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel last Tuesday in Berlin.

Merkel refused to decide to reassure Papandreou of help for Greece’s repayment conditions of its huge debt, insisting that all matters would be decided on the European summit next month.

Merkel wants to impose her own ways on the European Commission’s financial assistance mechanism and Papandreou must support it if he wants Germany’s backing for his problems.

The EC’s Report on Greece, repeated by Papakonstantinou, sets three main targets.

First, by the end of this year, the Greek government must reduce its deficit to 17bn Euros, that is 7.5% of the GNP, as demanded by the IMF-EC Accord signed last year.

The second IMF-EC diktat is that Greece must reduce its deficit to 1% of the GNP by the end of 2015. To achieve this, the EC Report demands that 25bn Euros worth of ‘savings’, that is public spending cuts and wages slashing, must be made.

The third target is for extensive privatisations of state corporations, public services and land to raise the 50bn Euros to pay back loans.

All energy, communications and transport state corporations must be privatised, the EC Report commands, by 2013; it includes the biggest corporations in Greece such as DEH (electricity, power plants and mines), DEPA (gas) and LARKO (minerals) employing in total some 50,000 skilled workers who have built strong trade unions.

The leader of the DEH workers’ union stated that electricity bills would ‘at least triple’ if the privatisation plans go through. Ports and airports, urban transport, railways, water authorities, post office, lotto and football pools will be sold off at a cost of literally hundreds of thousands of jobs and sky-high household bills and transport fares.

State services, that is welfare state, education, hospitals etc., would be driven to total destruction by huge spending cuts and lack of personnel as the Greek government decreed that no recruitment would be allowed.

As workers are pensioned off, services are collapsing and on top of this state hospitals are privatised as sections are cut off and sold off and patients have to pay high fees.

But the Papandreou government is treating bankers with yet another handout of some 30 bn Euros and businesses with record low taxation at 20 per cent.

l Meanwhile in Spain some 17,500 FIA-UGT and FSC-CCOO union members across the country’s paper mills held a 24-hour strike over pay last Wednesday.

Mills, including Torras Motril, Holmen Paper Madrid, SCA Papel Higiénico, SAICA I Y II Aragon and Smurfit Jaen, were affected by the strike, with another 24-hour strike planned for this Thursday, March 3rd.

Dick Blin, pulp and paper officer at the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM), said: ‘The situation is rather dire since unions spent all of 2010 in talks for wage increases and got nowhere on a 2010 collective agreement.

‘Workers, obviously, are frustrated because they’ve seen no 2010 increase.’

He added that the UK, along with other markets, will be affected by the strike.

Commenting on Wednesday’s strike, Blin added: ‘There’s been a good turnout today. The slump in the Spanish economy generally has been a factor behind the strikes.’

He said that workers at one of three Kimberly Clark mills (Salamansa) were on strike on Wednesday.

Other mills affected included Papertech Navarra (100 per cent of workers on strike), Ibertisu Navarra (95 per cent), Troncheti Aragon (100 per cent), Newart Catalana (100 per cent), Goma Camp La Riba (100 per cent), Vilaver (100 per cent), Torras San Joan (90 per cent) and Clariana Castellón (100 per cent).

In total, 17,500 workers took part at 120 sites across Spain.

Calling on other affiliates to support the Spanish strikers, ICEM said in a statement on Wednesday: ‘The dispute is not just over salaries, but adverse salary structures that employers are trying to impose that will prove detrimental to workers in the long term.

‘The dispute also is over (employers group) Aspapel’s aggressive methods to liberalise work rules, a pivotal factor in worker frustration and not getting a pay increase in 2010.

‘Spanish paperworkers need to hear from us.’

ICEM proposed that affiliates send the following message:

‘Dear Spanish Comrades,

‘We have heard through the ICEM of your current strike actions and we support you.

‘We are appalled that pulp and paper bosses under Aspapel have stalled bargaining since 2009.

‘Please inform all FIA-UGT and FSC-CCOO paperworkers in Spain of our Solidarity toward their courageous industrial actions.’

The ICEM statement concluded: ‘Early this week, the two unions conducted a picket at the headquarters of Spanish paper company SAICA.

‘Other companies met with strike action today (Wednesday) including Torraspapel, Iberpapel, SmurfitKappa, Holmen, SCA, Newark, Papertech, and several others.

‘Paperworkers at one company have pledged to carry out day-long strikes once every week until April.

‘The two sides are not widely apart on wages, but it is the rabid flexibility changes and revisionist consumer price index (CPI) re-structuring demands that are anti-social.

‘Employers have been very outspoken in their demand of this as a consequence to Spain’s economic situation.

‘Worker frustration over this injustice is very evident in this dispute.

‘Entering a mediation session at Servico Interconfederal de Mediación y Arbitraje (SIMA) in Madrid yesterday (Tuesday), paperworkers through their unions are seeking a retroactive 1 January 2010 increase of 3%, with a 1 January 2011 increase of between 1.5 and 2%.

‘In 2012, the unions seek 2-2.5% increases, depending on pay scale structures. Employers are offering one per cent less.’