Greek Medicines Crisis

A section of Tuesday’s Co-ordination of Trades Unions demonstration in Athens (Antonis Stamatopoulos on the left with arms folded)
A section of Tuesday’s Co-ordination of Trades Unions demonstration in Athens (Antonis Stamatopoulos on the left with arms folded)

The Greek Chemist shops Association staged a 24-hour national strike yesterday demanding the payment by the Health Ministry of some 500 million euros owed to chemist shops.

If they don’t get their money, Greek chemist shops will stop providing medicines to National Health Service patients, meaning that patients would have to pay the full price for the necessary drugs.

Already patients suffering from cancer and mental illness cannot obtain their prescribed drugs as they are expensive and chemists refuse to give them to National Health Service patients preferring to sell them privately.

This situation has led to desperation as thousands of old people walk around from chemist to chemist and from one hospital to the other in the hope of obtaining medicine that keeps them alive.

The restoration of the necessary funds to the National Health Service and to hospitals was one of the demands of a march on Tuesday night through Athens, called by the Co-ordination of Trade Unions which unites trade union branches opposed to the GSEE (Greek TUC bureaucracy).

The march demanded the scrapping of the law that destroys collective agreements and leads to huge wage cuts.

President of the Athens Metro Trades Union (SELMA) Antonis Stamatopoulos participated in the march and spoke to the News Line on the current struggles of transport workers.

Management ‘wanted mass sackings,’ Stamatopoulos said, ‘and some of our workers at a critical time chose to run away and not to fight’; but, he continued, ‘we won our fight against sackings, and now management is once again threatening legal action and I have been taken to the courts many times, but we won’t give in.’

Stamatopoulos is widely respected in the Greek trade union movement; a few months ago he was beaten up in a trade union meeting by supporters of the social-democrats.

Stamatopoulos expresses the confidence and the hopes of the Greek working class today which sees a possible victory of the Coalition of the Radical Left party (SYRIZA) at the general election called for June 17 as the ‘opening of the door’ for the vindication of workers’ struggles and for the total defeat of the EC-IMF imposed austerity measures accord which Alexis Tsipras, the leader of SYRIZA has vowed to abolish.

But as polling day gets closer Tsipras is changing his position. He was in Berlin on Tuesday where he met with the leaders of the German Green Party, of the Left Party and of the Social-Democrats.

There Tsipras repeated that SYRIZA have no intention of taking Greece out of the euro and would be prepared to negotiate with the Eurozone if it is in government following the June 17 elections.

Tsipras claimed that, ‘our proposal is one of salvation,’ and added that he was prepared to ‘discuss on a European level possible European solutions to the debt problem.’

Appealing to the German bourgeoisie that leads the Eurozone, Tsipras insisted that, ‘we will step forward with positions and proposals, we will listen.’