Greek workers plunged into social misery
Sep 15, 2011
With Greece verging on a default of its debt of around €330 billion, and facing a forced exit from the eurozone, the PASOK government of Prime Minister George Papandreou is escalating its austerity programme against an already pauperised population.
Since its election in October 2009, PASOK has initiated a social counter-revolution, destroying the living standards of the working class.
Unemployment reached an official level of 16 percent (800,000 people) in June and is in reality nearer 30 percent. It is set to rocket further as the government plans to eliminate as many as 120,000 public-sector jobs through sackings or lay-offs on reduced wages for up to a year. On Monday, the government announced that 3,500 employees from 151 public utilities and state enterprises will enter a “labour reserve pool” and will receive a level of pay that is just over the amount paid in unemployment benefit.
On Saturday, Papandreou used the prime minister’s annual speech on the economy at the Thessaloniki Annual International Fair to confirm that thousands of civil servants will lose their jobs and thousands more have their salaries cut. The measures had been decided last week in cabinet, on the basis that Greek access to the latest tranche of the International Monetary Fund‘s (IMF) second €109 billion loan is conditional on ever deeper austerity measures. An International Monetary Fund/European Union (EU) delegation visited Greece, Wednesday, in order to assess whether to authorise the sixth loan payment of €8 billion. Without the loan Greece will immediately default on its debt.
In what has become a daily ritual, leading government figures attempt to assure the financial markets that Greece is not about to go under. On Friday, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos was forced to state that Greece would not go bankrupt over the weekend. “The clearest message Greece is sending at this point… is that we are absolutely determined, without taking any momentary political cost into account, to fully meet our obligations to our partners,” he said.
On Monday, Deputy Finance Minister Filippos Sachinidis confirmed that Greece only had cash in place to last until October.
Nothing is off the table in terms of the destruction of social conditions. During a press conference in Thessaloniki, Papandreou was asked if he intended to propose the abolition of tenure for the civil service during the proposed revision of the Constitution. He replied, “There should be no taboos on what we discuss”.
The austerity measures have fuelled a recession that has seen Gross Domestic Product fall by 7.3 percent in the second quarter of 2011, compared to the same period in 2010.
According to a report from the GSEE/Adedy trade union federations, more than one million Greeks will be jobless by the end of the year and official unemployment will reach 26 percent in 2012. This is in a country of just over 11 million people, with a working population of around half that number.