Solidarity strikes spread – Unions must widen strike action to defeat government repression and to stop all cuts!
In the last 48 hours, the militant struggle of Athens’ metro workers has had an explosive impact in Greece, threatening to transform the situation and open up an atmosphere of renewed militancy and struggle against the misery spiral of Troika austerity.
Metro workers were engaged in 8 consecutive days of strike action, against the brutal Troika-imposed (by the third Memorandum) wage attacks, to strip up to 25% of workers’ salaries in addition to the 35-40% already imposed on the transport workers by the previous two Memoranda.
At a time when the level of class struggle was relatively low, in comparison with the high points of 2012 and particularly 2011, which featured a series of general strikes and other militant and determined class and social movements, the government clearly saw in moving to forcefully break the Metro strike an opportunity to inflict an important defeat on one of the more militant sections of the Greek working class.
On the basis of implementing anti-strike legislation originating in the period of the military dictatorship, the government ruled the strike illegal and issued an order “obliging” workers to return to work. Following the Metro workers’ courageous refusal, at 4.00am this morning, riot police launched a violent attack to clear an occupation of workers in Athens’ main depot.
However, it seems that the Greek government’s attempts to set a precedent in defeating these workers through authoritarian measures may have backfired. Within hours of the threat of police attack yesterday afternoon, the whole of public transport all over Athens had ground to a halt, with bus and train unions striking in solidarity with Metro workers and to defeat the brutal attacks they also face. A mass rally is set to take place this afternoon in response to the events. The hope of hundreds of thousands of Greek workers is that the heroic struggle of the Metro workers and the government’s attempt to smash it, could be the spark for a new wave of resistance to austerity.
Xekinima (CWI in Greece) energetically participated in the events of the last days. Below, we publish the text of a Xekinima leaflet being distributed today, and extracts from a Xekinima report of an important assembly of bus workers, which gives an indication of the mood among workers.
Police outside occupied transport terminal
Metro workers show the way forward!
Spread strike action now!
Brutal repression! This is the Greek government’s response to the struggle of workers in urban transport. Last night, riot police were deployed against striking metro workers in Athens. As if responding to a major terrorist attack, eight squads were used, blocking all roads leading to a depot occupied by workers, smashing down doors and occupying buildings.
Why is the government reacting so violently towards metro workers? This is because these workers dared to go on indefinite strike to defend their wages and collective agreements.
They refused to follow the well-trodden path of the leaderships of the main union federations, the GSEE and ADEDY [the private and public sector trade union centres]. Against the onslaught of cuts, these leaders just called a few scattered work stoppages and 24 hour strikes only in order to defuse the anger of workers, not to build up real militant action to defeat the government’s latest vicious cuts.
But the metro workers’ strike started to give hope to workers everywhere, that maybe they can take once again to the path of mass struggle and perhaps not all is lost. This is the hope that the government wants to crush. So they treat the metro workers’ strike as a ‘threat’ to ‘national security’.
"Workers in urban transport need to make sacrifices", the government claims, giving the impression that workers in the industry are untouched by the Memoranda (cuts) and other austerity measures in recent years. However, from the first day Greece entered the Memoranda, the wages of urban transport workers have fallen by 35%-40%. The latest proposals will mean payroll deductions, of up to 25%. In response, the transport workers held a general meeting on 24 January and decided on repeated 24-hour strikes and to occupy a major metro depot.
The strike action should be developed and widened. The workers’ movement must reply decisively against the government’s military-style attack against urban transport workers. We must defend the right to strike, which, in practice, the government is trying to abolish.
The employees of all workplaces must stand in solidarity with the struggle of workers in urban transportation and the best solidarity is to widen the strike front. Faced with this onslaught, the two union confederations should call for repeated strikes until the government either retreats or falls.
However, the leaderships of GSEE and ADEDY are not willing to really confront the government. So responsibility passes on to some of the Unions that have shown willingness to break the rule of the bureaucrats and to enter the road of struggle. Unions like that of the Electricity Workers, the local government workers, the maritime workers, the petrol distilleries, the health workers all of whom are now facing new attacks at the present time, should be out! They must enter the struggle now! Against such a mighty force no riot police or any special security force can stand. Together we have tremendous power in our hands!
All out sector-wide strikes now, to prepare for an all-out national general strike
Extracts from Xekinima report of assembly of Athens “Blue bus” workers
In one of their most massive and most angry workers’ assembly at ETHEL – OASA (“blue buses” in Athens) decided to call recurring 24-hour strikes until next Tuesday, when there will be a new general meeting to decide on the further continuation of protests.
The last straw was the government’s repression of Metro workers.
Initially, in the general assembly, the leaders of the union onlyproposed calling one 24-hour strike on Thursday next week.
This proposal led to an explosion of rage from below, and gave way to the agreement of a militant strategy, as a result of the pressure from below and from more militant union factions.
So the bus workers’ Union, by far the biggest of the public transport Unions, decided on: repeated 24-hour strikes until next Tuesday, the immediate closure of depots, for workers to occupy the depots, the formation of picket lines at each depot, for a march of the workers and solidarity rally with the Metro workers.
The assembly of workers then denied the union Board any right to take decisions on its behalf, understanding that only their own power, organised in their general assembly, can be relied upon.
A broad front (“Anexartiti Paremvasi”, one of the factions in the Bus Workers Unions) in which Xekinima members form a crucial part, played a key role in the dispute and its development, producing and circulating two written statements in the previous days exposing the real scale of the coming attack (which the Pasok and ND Union leaders were hiding from the rank and file) and campaigning on the demand for a General Assembly of the workers, which the Union leadership was trying by all means to avoid holding.