Greek Riot Police Attack Ship Repair Workers

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Greek riot police opening fire on the workers’ demonstration with tear gas
Greek riot police opening fire on the workers’ demonstration with tear gas

GREEK armed riot police viciously attacked with clubs, smoke and lightning bombs and toxic tear gas grenades about 800 protesting ship repair workers last Thursday morning outside the building of the Ministry for Labour in Athens.

Workers had organised a car and motorcycle convoy from the Perama ship repair works to the Ministry.

The Labour Minister Andreas Loverdos met a delegation of trade unionists representing ship repair workers who demanded state assistance for their unemployed colleagues burdened with debts.

The Minister could only promise another meeting next week; this angered workers who started shouting anti-government slogans and refused to disperse.

The subsequent police attack transformed the area around the Labour Ministry building into a battlefield with the tear gas fumes affecting a large part of the city centre.

Workers regrouped and attempted a march to the Vouli (Greek parliament); but riot police blockaded the streets with police buses and once again attacked workers; two workers were taken to hospital.

The Greek Communist Party (KKE) parliamentary deputy Yiorhos Marinos was also attacked by police.

The government spokesperson Yiannis Petalotis said that the police action was justified as the workers’ actions ‘were not lawful’.

The police violence was condemned by the Greek Communist Party and the Coalition of the Radical Left both of which called on the government to satisfy the ship repair workers’ demands. Ship workers are meeting to discuss their plan of action.

The Greek capitalist press and media are indicating that the new social-democratic government of Prime Minister Yiorghos Papandreou is preparing for a concerted attack on the rock solid Piraeus port workers’ struggle who are completing a two-week strike this weekend.

The government through Louka Katselli, the Minister for Economy, Competitiveness and Shipping, are speaking of a ‘dialogue’ with the port workers but reports say that the courts will be called to declare the strike illegal and that martial law will be imposed on the port workers.

In 2002 the social-democratic government imposed martial law on the striking seafarers to break the strike.

Both the leaders of the KKE, Aleka Paparigha, and of the Coalition of the Radical Left, Alexis Tsipras, visited the containers sector of the Piraeus port in support of the workers’ demand for the re-nationalisation of the containers dock, sold to the Chinese state company COSCO last year.

A reactionary front made up of the Chinese Embassy, the capitalist press, the industrialists’ association, the racist party LAOS and former Ministers of the previous right-wing government, have been slandering the port workers’ strike demanding ‘state intervention’.

Last Thursday, the Ambassador of China to Greece met the Minister Louka Katselli and pressed on her the rights of COSCO and demanded the immediate installation of the company on Dock 2 of the containers sector of the Piraeus port.

Port workers demand the freezing of the installation of COSCO and negotiations for the re-nationalisation of Dock 2.

But the Greek government announced that they will stick to the COSCO agreement and what is more, they would invite COSCO to take over Dock 1 of the containers sector as well.

The President of the OMYLE (federation of Greek port workers trade unions) Yiorghos Yeorgakopoulos said that the port workers continue the struggle and demanded the ‘freezing’ of the COSCO installation on the containers’ sector; but he did not mention the demand for the re-nationalisation of Dock 2 and the ousting of COSCO.

Port workers will be meeting this Sunday to review the situation and to decide on next week’s action.

In the northern Greek city of Naoussa thousands of textile workers held a rally and demonstration last Tuesday against the closure of factories.

They are also planning a series of mobilisations in the coming weeks. In Salonica, the largest industrial Greek port city in the north, some 50 secondary schools have been occupied by students in protest against poor classrooms and lack of teachers.

The Greek government received another blow following the decision of the German giant firm Thyssen-Krupp to shut down next month the Skaramanga Shipyards, the biggest in the eastern Mediterranean.

Over 1,300 jobs are threatened. The shipyards were privatised a few years ago by the then social-democratic government; the present Greek Prime Minister Yiorghos Papandreou was then the Foreign Minister.

Last Thursday, the Greek state statistics service announced 130,000 workers lost their jobs in the period July 2008 – July 2009. It is the biggest increase on record.

Unemployment now stands at 24 per cent in the 15-24 age group.

The GSEE (Greek TUC) commented that the real figures are higher.

Record high and mass unemployment is the direct consequence of the bankruptcy of the Greek economy now officially declared in a slump.

In a report published last Wednesday the European Union placed Greece in the category of ‘high risk’ countries along with Latvia, Ireland, Spain, Slovenia and Britain.

Greek state debt has now reached officially 116 per cent of the GDP while the Budget deficit has gone to an incredibly high of between 12-14 per cent according to the Governor of the Bank of Greece who said that the target for 2009 was 6 per cent!

The EU’s report points out that the dire economic crisis in Greece cannot be resolved even by a ‘future economic recovery’.

It cynically puts the blame for the crisis in the Greek economy onto too many pensioners, who allegedly live too long, and so the state has to spend too much on pensions!