Greek unions embark on a general strike tomorrow, in a move that is backed by the Syriza government.

Greek unions embark on a general strike on Thursday in protest at the imposition of austerity measures by the Syriza government. The strike has been called by the large private sector General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE), as well as its public sector equivalent, the Greek Civil Servants Confederation (ADEDY).

However, in a surprising move, Prime Minister Alex Tsipras has backed the strike against his own government, saying he had no choice but to impose the austerity measures demanded by creditors.

The strike comes after attacks on union rights and collective bargaining and the imposition of austerity measures by the Greek government as part of the Third Memorandum bailout deal. The three-year, €86-billion agreement with the Troika provides a financial bailout for the Greek economy in exchange for austerity measures, privatisation, punitive control of Greek assets and a restriction on democracy – including on workers’ rights to bargain collectively.

The Troika is made up of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF, but is widely perceived as being lead by Germany.

The 24-hour strike will shut down all public services, museums, schools and pharmacies, while public transport will be disrupted, ferries will remain tied up in port and hospitals will function with only emergency staff. Flights will be grounded as civil aviation staff strike, and journalists will walk out, cancelling news broadcasts. There will be no metro service in Athens on the day of the strike, and the Public Power Corporation’s main workers’ union, GENOP, said that its members would also participate in Thursday’s strike.

Syriza’s labour section has called for mass participation in the strike “against the neoliberal policies and the blackmail from financial and political centres within and outside Greece”.

It will be the first general strike since the victory of the left wing Syriza coalition in January. Syriza – at one time the darlings of the European left – was elected on a platform of rejecting the Troika’s imposition of austerity on Greece. However, after tense and dramatic negotiations, it was forced into a humiliating capitulation and an acceptance of the Troika’s terms.

Many of the more radical members of Syriza left the party, claiming that by surrendering to the international institutions, Syriza had demonstrated the impossibility of reforming the system and negotiating with powerful “austerians”. However, the government maintains the confidence of a large proportion of citizens, after being re-elected in September with 36% of the vote.

The austerity measures demanded are criticised as being a highly ideological move to install neoliberal control on Greece against the democratic wishes of its citizens. A major part of the Third Memorandum is the restriction of union power and the radical restructuring of collective bargaining, which will be supervised by the European powers.

Food workers’ international union campaigns director Peter Rossman has examined how vulture funds are circling the stricken Greek economy, and has also suggested that the Memorandum will turn the country into a debt colony that is little better than a theme park.

Former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has annotated the terms of the Memorandum here.


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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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