Greek workers march against cuts and privatisation!

Greek hospital workers demanding free health care for all. Their banner declares ‘All together we will win!’
Greek hospital workers demanding free health care for all. Their banner declares ‘All together we will win!’

THREE thousand hospital workers, Metro workers, primary school teachers and pensioners marched through Greece’s capital, Athens last Wednesday.

The day of strike action was against the policies of privatisation, ‘flexible’ working conditions and cuts in hospital spending by the Greek government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

In the port of Piraeus hundreds of dockers demonstrated against the privatisation of all the Greek ports. Dockers are on 48-hour ‘rolling’ strikes for the second week. On Thursday, railworkers staged a 24-hour strike against the sell-off of Greek railways, stations and buildings. Workers at the Wind telecom company also struck for the day against ‘flexible’ working hours.

At a rally in front of the Health Ministry building M. Yiannakos, the President of the POEDIN (hospital workers trade union), and P. Papanikolaou of the EINAP (hospital doctors trade union) accused the government of being responsible for policies that ‘result in deaths’.

Yiannakos said that intensive care units with 220 beds remain shut and ‘people are dying’. Papanikolaou said that patients have to buy all the necessary medicine out of their own pockets and still have to wait for months.

Speakers said that the government continually reduces funds to hospitals and tries to impose ‘flexible’ working conditions with very low wages. These conditions have led to a collapse of the state National Health Service, which is being used by the government to privatise whole hospitals such as a newly built one on the tourist island of Santorini.  

Speakers pointed out that the government is preparing an attack on the right to strike and demonstrate through a Labour Reforms Bill and a ‘revision’ of the Greek Constitution. Trade union leaders could only say that workers had to fight but refused to call for a general strike or for the overthrow of the hated Tsipras government.

Over 1,000 pensioners attended the rally at the Health Ministry demanding proper care and medicines which the government now say they have to buy themselves while cutting down their pensions. The hospital workers’ march was joined by striking primary school teachers who are against part-time and ‘flexible’ teaching hours and the closure of primary schools and nurseries.

A delegation of the striking Athens Metro workers also joined the march. The president of the SELMA Metro trade union Spyros Revithis, said that they have taken an initiative along with seven other transport trade unions (tram, trolley buses) to form a resistance front against the total privatisation of all transport proclaimed by Tsipras.

Revithis is to hold talks with other trade unions but he said that is going to be a struggle as his union’s initiative is strongly opposed by the GSEE (Greek TUC) bureaucracy. Metro workers, dockers and railway workers are planning strike action for the coming week.