On behalf of PAME, the hundreds of Trade Unions, Regional Unions and National Federations that rally with us, we thank you for accepting our invitation and we welcome you to our meeting today to discuss developments and exchange views on joint initiatives and actions against the escalating antiworkers’ attack of employers-governments-European Union.
In our meeting today participate …unions from… countries, while we greet and welcome the comrades of the World Federation of Trade Unions for their presence.
We will note some of our main concerns and assessments based on the developments also in Greece and on the stance that we believe the working class movement should maintain against the attack we suffer on our rights, on our lives.
We believe that we are in a new capitalist crisis, which was accelerated by the pandemic but not caused by it. It is a given that the pandemic has escalated a situation that has not yet fully manifested itself, while at the same time the pandemic has been and is being exploited by the EU and governments to expedite a series of measures to ensure the profitability of business groups and block the expression of the growing indignation of the peoples and the workers, to prevent it from turning against their barbaric policy.
In these conditions, we ask the question: What do the governments of the EU countries have in common, apart from the fact that these countries count a total of hundreds of thousands of dead? An initial answer to this question is their policy. A policy characterized by huge cuts in public health systems, by extensive privatizations. (Details are given in the annex)
While the healthcare workers, the peoples of Europe are fighting the pandemic, fighting for life, the European Union and governments, as well as other imperialist centers, are using the pandemic for an unprecedented post-war campaign to support their monopoly groups and investments. In fact specific sectors are at the same time fields of manifestation of global competitions. We are witnessing even the issue of the vaccines becoming a tool within the competitions of the multinationals.
In particular, the EU, in the name of addressing the effects on the economy from the restrictive measures for the management of the pandemic, is promoting the Recovery Fund, which is essentially a Pan-European Anti-workers’ Memorandum that wants to restore the profitability of business groups by imposing wage and pension cuts and destroying working relations, the right to full time steady jobs.
The Fund’s operating mechanism stipulates that before any funding – which no matter what, will go to the big business groups – Governments must submit a specific anti-workers’ plan that will ensure what they call a favorable, investment-friendly environment. All of us here, as workers, have experience that a“favorable investment environment” is a graveyard of labor rights, sterilized by trade union, collective, militant action.
And to be more specific, with the presentation of the measures of the recovery fund in Greece, the Government of Greece promoted a bill for the imposition of 10-hour workday and the abolition of overtime pay, regulations for the expansion of flexibility. The abolition of the 8-hour workday, Collective Labor Agreements, the Sunday – holiday for even more sectors as well as basic trade union rights are a huge blow to our rights and to the very purpose of the existence and action of the trade unions.
They seek to force workers as modern-day slaves to work 10 hours a day with unpaid overtime for almost 6 months, with the employer committing to giving a few days’ leave in that period. The explosion of overtime work, along with the voices that are already calling for the next step of the attack on labor relations and income, which is, for “overtime pay on a reasonable basis”, are the basis of impoverishment, of intensification, of essentially unpaid work.
They seek to turn the whole of Greece into a big special economic zone, where business groups will be completely free to employ workers whenever and however they want. They seek, by imposing individual employment contracts, the “free” as they say “agreement” between an employee and employer, to break the strongest bond that binds workers with their unions. We can all understand and we have considerable experience of what it means to be a worker alone in front of the employer, how vulnerable and defenseless a worker is to every claim of the employer.
A special issue is Teleworking, with consequences in working relations and the lives of the workers, and a significant impact on the structure of the workforce. We note this because it allows movements outside the urban fabric and also allows, for example, residence in Greece and work even abroad, while at the same time it transforms the place of residence into place of work.
With the changes in the trade union law, Government and Employers seek to block workers’ struggles. They promote e-registry and legitimize employers’ intimidations. They seek to give a decisive blow to the right to strike since it is imposed the unacceptable way of e-voting in General Meetings and Unions’ Board Meetings and also they legalize strike-breaking for most sectors. We have managed to delay this action with our struggles till today and now we have warned with a General Strike if this bill is submitted to the Parliament
We also enclose some examples of laws passed in Greece in 2020-21. We have similar examples in other countries, such as the law of universal security in France, the law on policing in the United Kingdom, the persecutions and dismissals of trade unionists in Italy, Turkey, the Basque Country and elsewhere.
We see similar examples being promoted in other countries of the European Union and we hope you will help us with your experience. And in fact we would like to note the following. It has been proven since last year that at the same time as anti-workers economic measures are being promoted in EU countries, governments are taking a series of measures amid the pandemic against the democratic and trade union rights of peoples and workers. They take measures to prevent the growing anger and resentment of workers. And here an answer must be given.
Positions presented by a number of forces and the ETUC forces in Greece such as “that the pandemic has no class features” are not only dangerous, but show that the employers and the forces that they control within the unions are working together to disarm and disorient the working class. It is characteristic that in Greece the forces of ETUC voluntarily quarantined themselves a year ago and we have not seen them since.
On the contrary, in these conditions, stood out the forces, the unions, which, despite the enormous difficulties, continued their action.The forces that were firmly in the workplaces, next to the workers.The unions that took initiatives, developed struggles and actions. They broke bans and protected workers as much as they could, they prevented measures, layoffs, theysaved lives!
For this action they received persecutions, punishments, dismissals, violence and the attack of the repressive forces. It is typical that in Greece, just a few days ago the President of the Metalworkers of Piraeus was fired, because he demandedfor his colleagues to be tested for Covid in the place where he worked, while also unionist doctors are persecuted because they revealed the huge shortages that exist in public hospitals. Doctors were fired in the midst of the pandemic because they fought with their unions for measures to support Public Hospitals.
In the face of this situation it is necessary for the militant unions to discuss and plan the coordination of action against the attempt of capitalists-EU- governments to impose a new Dark Age for the workers. To organize the fight for the defense of our health and our rights, for the militant celebration of workers’ May Day in Europe with strikes.
We believe it is critical need to strengthen the organization of the workers in the workplaces, which in our country is small, when we have the conditions to change it. It is important to form a militant front of Europe’s trade unions that will not only oppose anti-labor policy but also claim:
Contemporary working and living conditions with rights.Fixed daily work time and reduction of working time. Hands off the 8hour/workday
Abolition of the antiworkers’ laws and reforms that were promoted and imposed the last years
Free collective bargaining without any state involvement, Collective Bargaining Agreements with significant increases in wages and securing important rights.
Protection of the health of all people.Protection of the health and safety of workers under the responsibility of the state. We fight for Exclusively Public and Free Healthcare with immediate requisition of Private Health Centers.
Measures for the safe operation of all levels of education with protection measures for the health of pupils, students, teachers
Ensuring the free and unhindered action of trade unions and trade unionists, against the escalation of repression and authoritarianism. The state and business groups have no right to interfere in the unions.
In this direction Workers May Day, in Greece will be a STRIKE on MAY 6, and we will honor the dead of our class, the victims of the pandemic, of the profits of the capitalists under the slogan of the workers of France, MAY 1, 2021:
THEIR PROFITS – OUR DEAD
WALKING ON THE PATH TO OVERTHROW THEM