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Vol. 75/No. 43      November 28, 2011

Greek steel strikers take
on boss, gov’t austerity
(front page)
ATHENS, Greece, November 12—“Not a single sacrifice for the plutocracy!” reads the large banner over the front entrance to the Elliniki Halivourgia steel mill in Aspropyrgos outside Athens, where workers have been on strike for 13 days. Four hundred workers are employed at the mill.

Mill bosses gave up trying to run the plant three days into the strike, according to workers. “Management does not even show up any more. Our people must guard the plant 24/7 to make sure no harm comes to the equipment,” Nikolaos Harokopos, vice president of the Workers and Employees Union of Elliniki Halivourgia, told the Militant.

The Militant spoke with pickets in front of the steel mill’s gate today around two barrels of burning wood with temperatures close to zero degrees Celsius (32oF).

The company “went to its other plant in Volos and asked for a five-hour workday, which means a 40 percent cut in pay. The union there buckled and accepted it. We in Aspropyrgos said no, and 34 workers were fired,” explained union President Giorgos Sifonios. “How can you live on 500 euros [$677] a month?” asked Harokopos.

“We are fighting to be able to raise our families with basic human dignity and we have won tremendous support from people and unions in the area and beyond,” said Sifonios. “All the steel bosses are looking at what happens here.” The workers will not return to work or negotiate with the company until the 34 are hired back, he emphasized.

At the start of this round of austerity in Greece “many workers watched the attacks on the public sector workers and said, ‘They deserve it,’” Sifonios said. “Now you see how foolish this attitude was. If they can fire public workers, they can fire you!”

The night before hundreds of area unionists attended a solidarity benefit concert at the steel mill’s gates.

The Elliniki Halivourgia strikers also led the march of thousands in central Athens November 10, organized by the All Workers Militant Front (PAME) union federation. This was the first union march in opposition to the new “national unity” government and its mandate for a new round of austerity measures aimed at working people. “We will continue our fight; we won’t be turned into slaves,” Sifonios told rally participants.  
New government of ‘technocrats’
The rulers of Greece—under pressure from their main creditors and strongest imperialist powers in the eurozone, Berlin and Paris—have cobbled together a new government touted as a “technocratic” regime of “national unity.” Its overriding function is to implement further austerity measures to slash jobs, wages, social services and living conditions of the country’s working class. Similar moves are under way in Italy.

The governments of Germany and France seek to protect the solvency of their banks, deeply leveraged in investments in Greek and Italian bonds, and defend their faltering economies, dependent on exports to the rest of the European Union. This unfolds as countries in the eurozone, those that use the euro as a common currency, are lurching into recession.

Under the pressure of these developments, the European Union is beginning to unravel, as the crisis and increasing interstate conflicts mount pressure on the individual capitalist states to break away and rely on their own currency, their borders and their army to shore up their class rule.

Greece’s gross domestic product has contracted for six consecutive quarters. Official unemployment hit a record high of 18.4 percent in August, according to recent government figures. Youth unemployment stands at 43.5 percent.

The workers in Greece continue to seek ways to defend themselves. Trade unions have threatened a new round of strikes. A mass protest is scheduled for Athens November 17.

Georges Mehrabian in Athens contributed to this article.
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The dictatorship of capital  
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