National Public Sector Strike Called In Greece

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The banner of the National Union of Metal Workers at Monday’s Piraeus anti-fascist march. It reads ‘Workers do not bow their heads – Fascism is smashed by resistance and struggle’

The Federation of Greek Public Sector Trade Unions (ADEDY), the Athens and Piraeus Trades Councils and dozens of trade unions have called a 24-hour national strike today against a most reactionary anti-working class government Bill that obliterates most basic workers’ rights.

Strike marches have been organised in all Greek cities.

The Bill allows bosses to impose up to a 13-hour working day, a seven days a week up to 78 hours of work, on so-called ‘zero hours’ contracts taking labour conditions in Greece 100 years back to the early 1920s.

The Bill also imposes a one year ‘probation’ period during which workers can be sacked without compensation. Women lose the right of pregnancy leave.

The Bill prohibits trade unions from picketing which is classified in the Bill as ‘intimidation of those who want to work’. Trade unions or workers found guilty will have to pay heavy fines of thousands of euros plus imprisonment.

It’s a Bill that aims to smash the working class so as to save bankrupt Greek capitalism from the abyss.

It is thus a matter of life or death for workers and their families. Back in the 1920s Greek workers’ average life span was less that 50 years of age.

Yet last Monday the Executive of the GSEE (Greek TUC) voted against a motion calling for a general strike.

Greek workers and youth have been severely hit by the colossal increases in food prices, household bills and petrol. Youth unemployment is the highest in the EU while an average worker’s monthly wage stand at about £ 800.

There are huge class hatred feelings in workers in their 20s and 30s against Prime Minister’s Kostas Mitsotakis regime and the EU imposed Austerity Accords.

These young workers are spending their lives between unemployment and very low paid jobs mostly in the tourist and catering sectors.

University students have seen their level of studies deteriorate due to lack of finances to state education, while the majority of them cannot afford proper food nor accommodation.

The class rage of young workers filled the streets of Athens last spring in militant anti-government demonstrations.

Then, left trade union leaders the leaders called a 24-hour protest strike and despite the tens of thousands marching, they refuse to carry on the struggle against the government by organising an indefinite general strike.

It was this betrayal by the trade union leaders which allow the class anger to subside and for Mitsotakis to call and win a general election supported by the petty bourgeoisie and the farmers.

Mitsotakis blamed the refugees for the wild fires that devastated Greece in July and August while early September flooding has destroyed most of the Thessaly fields in central Greece along with literally hundreds of thousands of animals, and loss of homes and properties.

Young workers’ determination to fight against the Mitsotakis’ regime was clearly expressed in last Monday’s annual anti-fascist demonstration in the working class areas of the port city of Piraeus in memory of the killing of rapper Pavlos Fyssas by a neo-Nazi gang ten years ago.

Almost 10,000 young workers, school and university students along with delegation from trade unions participated in the march with people constantly shouting anti-fascist and anti-government slogans.

Meanwhile, three months after one of the deadliest shipwrecks in the Mediterranean Sea, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of 40 survivors, alleging a series of violations by Greek authorities.

The lawsuit – filed last week at the Naval Court of Piraeus, a port in the greater Athens area – demands an investigation into the shipwreck of June 14th when a fishing trawler carrying about 750 people sunk off the western coast of Greece near Pylos.

The suit accuses Greek authorities of failing to protect the lives of those on board the ship, which had set off on the dangerous migration route from Libya bound for Italy and was in the Greek search and rescue zone when it sunk.

104 people were rescued and hundreds and over 600 people drowned.

Allegations quickly emerged from survivors that the boat was subjected to a towing attempt in its final moments by the Greek coastguard before it capsized and sank.

The coastguard admitted to temporarily attaching a rope to the boat but has strenuously denied all wrongdoing, including towing allegations.

The Greek authorities were allegedly aware of the boat for hours before it sunk and had reportedly ignored three offers of assistance from Frontex, the EU coastguard and border agency.

The greek survivor testimonies that were tampered with and other closer coastguard vessels that could have been mobilised and sent to the scene for assistance.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are among the groups that have called for ‘a full and credible investigation’ that ‘should involve taking the testimonies of all survivors under conditions that guarantee their trust and safety’.

In the aftermath of the sinking, a Greek Supreme Court prosecutor ordered an investigation into the wreck but stated it should be carried out with complete secrecy.

Lawyers said as far as they were aware, none of the survivors had yet to be called to testify.

A group of nine Egyptians who survived the wreck have been accused of smuggling, manslaughter and forming a criminal organisation, charges that could result in life sentences. They all deny the allegations.

The case filed this week was brought by a collective of lawyers working on behalf of survivors, including the Network for Refugee and Migrant Rights, the Hellenic League for Human Rights, the Greek Council for Refugees, the Initiative of Lawyers and Jurists for the Pylos Shipwreck and Refugee Support Aegean (RSA).

Eleni Spathana, a lawyer from the RSA said they had filed a criminal complaint ‘against all responsible state actors of all competent Greek authorities who by their liable acts and omissions led to the tragic shipwreck of June 14th, 2023, near Pylos and the loss of hundreds of people’.

She said: ‘As lawyers at RSA, we represent the victims who survived this tragedy, whose life has also been jeopardised and who experienced the traumatic loss of relatives and friends, seeking justice for all the victims of this tragic shipwreck.

‘We demand an immediate, thorough and reliable penal investigation and prosecution in order to bring to justice all those responsible state actors who by their acts and omissions violated the rules of international law of the sea and their set obligations on search and rescue and consequently caused this tragedy,’ .

Spathana added: ‘It is of crucial importance for our society and democracy that justice should be served.

Maria Papamina, legal unit coordinator for the Greek Council for Refugees, said that the case was on behalf of survivors ‘who look for justice to be served and for accountability to be held for the actions and omissions that led to the loss of so many lives, which need to be thoroughly investigated’.

‘What happened was a brutal massacre.’ Of the 104 survivors of the wreck, some have since left Greece, and at least one man requested repatriation to Pakistan.

Others have had their asylum claims in Greece accepted, but some still await a final decision and remain in the Malakasa refugee camp about an hour outside Athens, where they were brought in the days after the wreck.

Hundreds of those on the fishing boat were reportedly Pakistani, and many of their families are still waiting for answers about lost loved ones come from some of Pakistan’s rural and impoverished villages.

Ahmad Farooq, from near Gujranwala, said his son, presumed lost in the wreck, boarded the boat in the hope of getting a job in Europe to support the family.

Hassan Al-Jalam, a survivor from Syria represented in the lawsuit, said it was essential that answers were found for the living and for the dead.

He said: ‘What happened was a brutal massacre that started with a ruse to avoid rescue and ended with everyone drowning.

‘We demand international condemnation and accountability for the perpetrators of the Greek coastguard and all those who failed to perform a rescue. We want justice for all the victims of the boat.’

Greek government officials said that the coastguard’s ‘actions are in line with the country’s international obligations, in particular with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the International Convention on Safety of Life at Sea and the International Convention on Search and Rescue in Sea’.

They also said they operate ‘around the clock with efficiency, high sense of responsibility, professionalism’ and ‘absolute respect for human life and human rights’.