Date: Wed, 5 Feb 97 23:15:21 CST
Strikes challenge government austerity
Workers World, 6 February 1997
Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis has tried to force the most drastic cost- cutting budget in 15 years through parliament with a "no concessions" policy. That stubbornness by Greece's ruling class unleashed eight weeks of workers' resistance with near-continuous strikes, blockades, and demonstrations.
On Jan. 23, the Panhellenic Seamen's Federation (PNO) settled a 10-day strike that had closed ports across Greece. "We are not totally pleased with the deal, but the government backed down on at least two demands," said PNO spokesperson Giorgos Maroulakis.
The seafarers' strike cost businesses hundreds of millions of dollars. Crops rotted in ports. The Aegean islands were closed off from the rest of Greece. The Greek defense ministry, siding with businesses, sent aircraft carriers and navy ships to the island of Crete to transport export goods.
The PNO pledged that it would return to picket lines if the government does not live up to its agreements.
The same day seafarers returned to work, the GSEE labor confederation--Greece's largest union group--called a 24- hour nationwide strike against higher taxes. The union reported that 90 percent of workers in construction, industry, and textiles observed the strike call. Airport, hospital, and public workers also walked off the job.
Over 2,000 workers marched in Athens Jan. 23 to support the strike call with banners reading "Down with cuts in salaries and pensions" and "Down with the government's autocracy."
High-school teachers have been on an indefinite strike for higher wages since Jan. 20.
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