‘THE TROIKA WANTS TO ABOLISH DEMOCRACY’ – says SYRIZA leader Alex Tsipras as banks collapse

Students’ unions banners on a demonstration in Athens calling for occupations
Students’ unions banners on a demonstration in Athens calling for occupations

LEADER of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) Alexis Tsipras has warned that the Troika ‘maybe wants to abolish democracy’.

Speaking at a railway workers’ trade union meeting on Monday, Tsipras said that the planned privatisation of the Greek Railways Organisation (OSE) by the government on the orders of the Troika is ‘a typical example of the premeditated, preplanned crime of selling off state property’.

‘SYRIZA,’ Tsipras stated, ‘is against the privatisation of the large units of the infrastructure of the country’.

He added that the Troika of the EC-IMF-ECB, ‘know very well that sooner or later this (SYRIZA’s ascent to power) would inevitably occur, unless they abolish democracy in a European country; I don’t know, maybe that’s their planning.’

Railway workers are involved in strike action against the privatisation of OSE.

As Tsipras was speaking, the shares of the National Bank of Greece and of the Eurobank had collapsed by 30 per cent in the Athens stock exchange as the Troika vetoed the merger of the two banks and their recapitalisation, thus in effect placing them under the control of the state’s Financial Stability Fund.

The Greek Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras repeated the claim that the banks’ deposits are ‘absolutely secure’ following a meeting with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

But the two banks announced on Monday lunchtime that they would try to raise 10 per cent of their recapitalisation needs, which are 9.75 billion and 5.84 billion euros respectively, so that they can remain functioning as private banks and qualify to receive recapitalisation from the IMF-ECB bailout funds to Greece.

The Athens stock exchange responded with a rush to buy Eurobank’s shares which shot up to 20 per cent of their Friday value.

Eurobank’s workers stated that the bank is to ask them to support the bank with their wages if they want to keep their jobs!

The shares of the National Bank of Greece, the biggest in the country, failed to recover crashing by 10.4 per cent.

On Monday evening, OTOE, the Federation of Bank Workers’ Trades Unions, issued a two-page press release condemning the troika’s action to stop the recapitalisation of the banks.

OTOE states that the Troikaaction aims to ‘take out of Greek hands the country’s banking system’ and thus, ‘take control not just of the Greek economy but also (avert) any possibility of a national policy to future developments’.

OTOE has been involved for over three months now in talks with the Greek banks’ federation over a new national collective agreement which the bankers have refused.

The despicable statement by OTOE calls for the ‘recapitalisation now of all Greek banks,’ with some 30 billion euros out of the bailout cash to Greece to be paid back with high interest by Greek workers, and states that ‘the country’s banking system belongs to the Greek people’ meaning the Greek bankers, not the nationalisation of the banks, which OTOE refuses to call for.

OTOE’s press release calls on the banks to sign a new national collective agreement which the union see with ‘responsibility, realism and prudence’ in view of the ‘difficult economic situation that the country faces’.

OTOE says that the ‘prime condition’ of the union for a deal with the banks is ‘keeping workers’ jobs and facing up to their daily needs’.

That’s exactly the reasoning put forward a few months ago by the treacherous OTOE bureaucracy when they sold out the national strikes of the Agrarian Bank and of the Postal Banks workers which were privatised.

Then the OTOE said that all jobs were secured.

Only a month later, the new owners of the two privatised banks announced thousands of sackings.

But the OTOE leaders face a tremendous reaction by bank workers in the planned mass meetings over the next two weeks.

The Troika, besides imposing total control on the Greek banks in effect inviting German and other European banks to take them over at a greatly reduced price, are demanding the sacking of some 15,000 civil servants and public sector workers this year.

The Greek government is desperate to agree the Troika-imposed terms so it can receive the delayed March instalment, worth 2.8 billion euros, of the bailout fund this month.

Greece has state bonds worth 5.6 billion euros maturing on May 20 so Prime Minister Samaras is anxious to receive another instalment of the bailout fund by the Eurogroup meeting on May 13.

Reflecting the stormy developments of the last few days in Greece, a leading columnist of the Athens daily Kathimerini, the voice of the bankers and big capital, has called for the withdrawal of Greece from the Eurozone.

Likewise Alekos Alavanos, the previous leader of SYRIZA, last week announced the formation of a new political party titled ‘Plan B’ (as opposed to the Troika’s Plan A of barbaric austerity measures Accords), which calls for the nationalisation of the banks and Greece’s withdrawal from both the European Union and from the Eurozone.

• The European Commission is studying a complaint from Belgium about low wages at some German firms, described by Belgium as unfair ‘social dumping’.

The Belgian government sent a letter alleging that Germany’s ‘mini-jobs’ undermined EU competition rules.

Some workers get just three or four euros (£3) hourly in such jobs, without any social protection, Belgium says.

Many are East Europeans working for meat processing firms in Germany. There has been criticism in Germany too.

The Commission says some 7.5 million people are working under the ‘mini-job’ regime in Germany.

It means they can earn up to 450 euros per month without paying tax or contributing to any pension system. They are also excluded from the employer’s social security contributions.

In Belgium, however, low-paid workers get a minimum of 12-13 euros per hour and all have to make social security contributions.

‘Belgium wants the Commission to stop this disloyal competition between countries,’ Els Bruggeman said. ‘The Commission can make Europe a more social union.’

She said the issue had also been raised by some firms in France and the Netherlands, especially ones near the German border.

The Belgian move was sparked by complaints from Belgian abattoirs, who said German low-wage competitors were threatening their survival. Some said they might have to relocate to Germany to survive.

The letter to the Commission was sent by Belgian Economy Minister Johan Vande Lanotte and Labour Minister Monica De Coninck.

Olaf Lies, economy minister in the German state of Lower Saxony, has voiced support for the Belgian complaint.

Germany’s economy dominates Europe at a time when most of its neighbours are struggling with massive debt burdens and record unemployment.

A German MEP, Thomas Haendel of the Linke party, said that only Germany and Malta had no statutory minimum wage in the 27-nation EU.

He said the Belgian complaint ‘is entirely justified – the Linke party has long been pointing out that Germany is practising wage dumping in Europe’.

‘It’s very unfair because Germany now has very high productivity, but gains a competitive advantage through these “mini-jobs”,’ Haendel said.

‘About 30 per cent of workers in Germany get less than 8.5 euros per hour – that’s below the OECD poverty level,’ he said, referring to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The European Commission now scrutinises member states’ economic policies in detail, under the enhanced surveillance brought in because of the eurozone debt crisis.

But it cannot dictate wage policy to individual states.

The Commission and Council – the grouping of EU governments – make country-specific recommendations for each member state.

Last year those recommendations urged Germany to ‘create the conditions for wages to grow in line with productivity’.

‘Extensive use of mini-jobs leads to low acquisition of pension rights.

‘Therefore there is a need to improve the transition from mini-jobs to more stable forms of contracts,’ Germany was told.