Greek Workers Besiege High Court

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The local government workers’ banner at the Greek High Court last Friday
The local government workers’ banner at the Greek High Court last Friday

GREEK health centre workers and doctors, on indefinite strike for over a month, demonstrated once again last Thursday in Athens against a government Bill that shuts down all health centres.

Under the Bill, all 10,000 workers and doctors are to be sacked. Health centres will be replaced by a new state organisation to be set up in a month. Workers and doctors who wish to be employed in the new organisation would have to accept much reduced wages and chaotic working terms and conditions.

Last Friday some 2,500 state school secondary teachers, school guards, and local government workers besieged the Council of the State building (Greek High Court) in support of their trade unions federations’ appeal against a government law, passed last summer, which allows education authorities to lay off and place public sector workers on so-called ‘mobility schemes’.

Greek riot police units attempted a new tactic of containment; they use their shields and tear-gas to split protesters and clear the Athens centre streets, but they were forced to withdraw as workers filled the streets.

Later, riot police blocked a teachers’ march to the Finance Ministry with police buses. Since the new year, Greek riot police have become more aggressive and have attacked nearly every single demonstration in Athens and in other cities.

Since last summer about 3,000 teachers and 2,500 school guards have been thrown out of work and placed on the “mobility schemes” receiving just 70 per cent of their wages for eight months.

At the end of March, these teachers and school guards will either be employed in some other public sector job or sacked.

The government says that up to now only about 1,000 positions have been found for those on the ‘mobility schemes’. Speaking to the News Line outside the Council of the State, teacher Maria Othonos said that ‘as things stand we will be sacked in a month.’ Othonos and her colleagues have travelled over 1,000km from the Evros district in northern Greece, to take part in the demonstration.

Delegations of the sacked Finance Ministry cleaners and ERT (state TV and radio corporation) workers, along with some university and school students, joined the demonstration.

The coalition government headed by prime minister Samaras have also agreed to an EC-IMF plan of sacking 15,000 local government workers during 2014. Cynically the government have devised a cheap labour five-month-long programme for local government where workers would be paid a salary of between 410 and 490 euros (about £240-270).

It was clear from the trade union federations leaders’ speeches last Friday outside the Council of the State, that the mobilisation was organised purely as a show of protest against the government ‘mobility scheme’ law. Workers’ chants for an ‘indefinite strike’ and occupations were ignored.

Ten days ago the local government workers’ federation POE-OTA and the secondary teachers’ federation OLME met and agreed on ‘joint action’ against the government’s dictatorial laws. But besides last Friday’s protest, nothing concretely has been organised.

Likewise the trades unions federation GENOP, of the State Electricity Corporation (DEH), the biggest employer in Greece, staged a small protest march in reaction to a government Bill to privatise DEH in sections.

Worse still at the port workers’ federation, trade union leaders have yet to react to the government’s announcement of the selling off of Piraeus port, the biggest in the country.

The treacherous bureaucracy at the helm of the GSEE (Greek TUC) has remained inactive issuing a couple of press release protests. At the public sector trade union federation ADEDY things are at a standstill as a clear majority for a new leadership was not achieved at last December’s Congress.

A proposal for a ‘left’ leadership, made up of SYRIZA (Coalition of the Radical Left party), ANTARSYA (anti-capitalist formation), KKE (Greek Communist party) and of a group split from the social-democrats, did not succeed as the KKE delegates refuse any alliances whatsoever. This situation has paralysed the ADEDY.

In a statement, the Revolutionary Marxist League (RML), the Greek Section of the ICFI, has called on all militants and all trade union leaders opposed to the government’s destruction policies imposed by the troika of the EC-IMF-ECB to take immediate action and build a united front of resistance in the public sector.

The RML has called on the OLME and POE-OTA federations to take the initiative and form such a front. Such a step, the RML argued, would be towards building a leadership to overcome the ADEDY paralysis.

The RML stated that in today’s period of terminal capitalist crisis, such a leadership must be built on the basis of fighting the treacherous bureaucracy and organising an indefinite political strike for the overthrow of the parliamentary junta in Greece.

The RML insisted that a new leadership must be built in the trades unions and in the working class to transform the resistance of workers into the revolutionary overthrow of the parliamentary junta and of capitalism.

As workers in Athens and other major cities demonstrate against the government, farmers in central and northern Greece on Sunday set up roadblocks and parked their tractors along motorway lanes in protest against a set of new taxes imposed on them. Last Saturday, the government accepted some minor farmers’ demands. But farmers considered the changes ‘cosmetic’ and were set for motorway demonstrations.

Last Saturday evening in Athens, the Greek Afghan Community organised a vigil in memory of the eight children and three women that were drowned in the Aegean on 20 January.

In a statement, they demanded a full investigation, the recovering of the bodies and punishment to those responsible.

The Afghan Community is also calling for refugee status for the migrants and demanded that the police stop harassing refugees.