ATHENS – Public transportation services, including ferries, ground to a halt on Jan. 12 as workers struck over a bill by the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA to limit strikes even though the party said it supports that right.
Clashes broke out between MAT riot police and trade unionists during a union protest rally on Friday after the latter attempted to break through a police cordon and enter Parliament.
There were scuffles next to the Unknown Soldier monument outside Parliament and police made limited use of tear gas to push back the protestors. The situation is currently calm and protestors are gradually dispersing toward Amalias Avenue, ANA reports.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ office said he had no choice but to relent to demands from international creditors in filing the legislation that requires unions to get at least 50 percent support from members, instead of 33 percent now, to walk off the job.
There have been thousands of strikes, protests and demonstrations against austerity measures during a more than 7 ½-year-long economic crisis but none have worked as successive governments including SYRIZA – which promised to reject the conditions – just kept on piling more.
The new strike was also aimed at legislation allowing banks to foreclose on homes although Tsipras swore not a single home would wind up in the hands of banks before he broke that vow too, along with virtually every one he’s made since coming to power three years ago.
The strikes don’t affect politicians or the rich, but commuters and shoppers who wanted to travel or get to downtown stores or jobs had to walk or find another way as the Metro, used by some 938,000 people daily, closed, setting off gridlock throughout the Capital.
Ships stayed in port and state-run hospitals were on skeleton staff as doctors joined in the strike and protest and as more were coming on Jan. 15 although the government said it will forge ahead with tough new measures after an avalanche of taxes and hikes last year, more this year and coming additional pension cuts and taxes on low-and-medium-income families.
The bill pending approval in Parliament on Jan. 15 would also reduce benefits for families, including those with three or more children, breaking another SYRIZA pledge to protect workers, pensioners, the poor and families while letting the rich, tax cheats and politicians largely escape sacrifice.
The government, which includes the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) blamed the country’s creditors, the Quartet of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-IMF-ECB-ESM) for demanding brutal measures in return for 326 billion euros ($395.3 billion) in three bailouts Tsipras said can never be repaid at the same time he said he’s bringing a recovery without mentioning it’s because he reneged on anti-austerity vows.
PAME, a Communist-affiliated union whose members are furious over the bill but who have no political power to do anything but complain, said it would lead a demonstation in downtown Athens.
“Blood was shed by generations which came before us to have the right to strike. Now a so-called left wing government is trying to abolish it,” Nikos Papageorgiou, a 50 year old hotel worker told the news agency Reuters.
“It is essentially scrapping the only weapon workers have left to protect themselves, particularly after collective working agreements were shelved,” GSEE spokesman Dimitris Karageorgopoulos, whose union represents private workers told the agency.