Greek workers marched in central Athens on Friday against new reforms, including restrictions on the right to strike, that parliament is set to approve next week in return for bailout funds. Ships were unable to sail as workers went on strike and state-run hospitals had to rely on reserve staff as doctors walked off the job. More work stoppages were expected.
“Hands off strikes!” protesters chanted. Banners read “No to modern slavery!”
The draft law has outraged many Greeks, who have seen living conditions and incomes plummet.
“This essentially abolishes the right to strike ... such things only happened during the junta,” said retired ship officer George Papaspyropoulos, referring to the military dictatorship that ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974. “This government is a leftist in name only, but in deeds its a junta.”
Syriza, the dominant party in the government elected in 2015, which had its roots in left-wing.
At present, unions can call strikes with the support of one-third of their members. The new law would raise that to just over 50 percent, which creditors hope would limit the frequency of strikes.
The union GSEE said the bill – demanded by the country’s creditors – “deals a killing blow to workers, pensioners and the unemployed ... effectively eliminating even constitutionally safeguarded rights such as the right to strike”. GSEE says the change will affect “99% of future strikes”, though there is speculation that unions may find ways to bypass the rules as they have done with prior attempts to limit strikes.