Tsipras Defends Reneging on Right-to-Strike Protection

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Parliament, Jan15, 2018. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Yorgos Kontarinis

ATHENS – Trying to explain why he went back on his word to let Greek workers keep the right to strike as his government put limits on work stoppages, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said it was a compromise with the country’s international lenders.

The Radical Left SYRIZA leader’s party had been a vehement defender of strikes when it was out of power and the protests were directed at other governments but the new law, narrowly passed by the Parliament the coalition includes, means unions will now the vote of at least 50 percent of members instead of 33 percent to call strikes.

Greek unions have called a number of strikes and protests against the government, which includes the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL), a tiny group which supports business interests.

Without explaining how it helps workers, Tsipras instead said that the measure, pushed by the Troika of the European Union-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM) that is putting up 86 billion euros ($105.2 billion) in a third bailout he said he would never seek nor accept but did both, was less severe than the creditors wanted.

Tsipras said the memorandum-mandated revision demands a 50-percent attendance of dues-paying union members at a general assembly convened to consider an industrial action, rather than an absolute majority (50 percent + 1) in any subsequent vote, the business newspaper Naftemporiki said.

But he told Parliament that the need for a majority in any vote – regardless of the percentage of members voting – for a strike remains.

Major opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis wanted even tougher anti-strike laws with his party aligned more with business than SYRIZA, which includes radical allegedly pro-worker elements they voted against.

“We want strikes decided by the many, not the few,” he said during the debate in Parliament.
Mitsotakis demanded that the actual decision require an absolute majority of all dues-paying union members via an electronic vote, and “without the procedure of a (general assembly) quorum”.

“We don’t have ideological blinders on… An employee’s gain is when a business is going well…” he said. His party voted against the amendment.