Greek bank workers strike over pensions

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Yesterday tens of thousands of bank workers were on strike throughout Greece for the second day of a two-day strike called by their union OTOE in defence of pensions.

Over 1,000 strikers staged a militant rally and march yesterday in Athens city centre proclaiming their determination to defend their pensions against the attacks of the right-wing government of Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis.

The bank employees marched to the Ministry for Economy building.

The OTOE bank employees union is to extend the stoppage and is calling for yet another 48-hour national strike to be supported by the GSEE (Greek TUC) and ADEDY (Public Workers) confederations.

GSEE President Christos Polyzogopoulos said that a 24-hour general strike is to be set later for this month.

OTOE President Dimitris Tsoukalas, a strong supporter of the opposition Social Democratic Party (PASOK), spoke at the rally and said that the strike had proved to be the most successful to date.

He singled out the private Eurobank which ‘was terrorising its employees not to participate in the strike’ and said that this bank will be the target of the union’s next mobilisation.

Tsoukalas also said that the government would not get away with its ‘blackmail’ and he called for the formation of a Bank Employees Pension Fund to include everyone who works at a bank.

The OTOE President called on the GSEE and ADEDY to call national strike action because, he emphasised, ‘the attack on bank employees is an attack on the whole Greek working class.’

The entire OTOE Executive spoke at the rally as an expression of the unity of the union.

Dimitra Georgakopoulou, an Agriculture Bank employee, told News Line: ‘The government is trying to split workers, young from the old, by offering a better deal for those who in a few years’ time will be on a pension.’

She added: ‘We must fight all the way for our rights; not just us, but all Greek workers united.’

Despoina Grotsou, an employee of the Alpha Bank, said: ‘The government is trying to take away all our rights; we must resist with all our forces.’

Nikos Doukas, also an employee of the Agriculture Bank, stated: ‘PASOK is helping the government; it’s a disgrace, they call themselves socialists!’

Last Saturday, the Greek Minister for Economy Yiorghos Alogoskoufis met with the Prime Minister Karamanlis.

After the meeting Alogoskoufis repeated the government’s intention to immediately introduce legislation in order to break up the bank employees’ Pension Funds and impose cuts and the introduction of ‘flexible’ working conditions.

Meanwhile, the management of the state-owned Greek Oil company have withdrawn plans to cut wages and pensions and impose ‘flexible’ working conditions following the oil workers union’s decision for a 10 day national strike starting on June 10.

But the Greek Oil management is pressing for the introduction of ‘reforms’.