Greeks go on mass strike over right-to-strike bill
12 January, 2018
Greek transport workers and state-employed doctors went on strike last Friday, in the country's first major industrial action of 2018, to protest a new law that will restrict their right to walk off the job. Parliament is expected to vote the reform, which would tighten rules on declaring work stoppages, on 15 January. The measure was set as a condition by creditors. A majority of lawmakers are expected to vote in favour of the bill.
At present, Greek unions can call strikes with the support of one third of their members. The new law would raise that requirement to 50%, which creditors hope would limit the frequency of strikes and improve productivity that lags about 20% behind the EU average, according to OECD data. Strikes are so common in Greece that there is a website dedicated to them.
Last Friday's stoppage is being backed by several unions, including GSEE, the largest private-sector one. “It is essentially scrapping the only weapon workers have left to protect themselves, particularly after collective working agreements were shelved,” GSEE spokesman Dimitris Karageorgopoulos said. Another union leader said that, regardless of new legislation, workers would continue to strike.
Hundreds of Greeks marched through Athens last Tuesday and confronted authorities demanding the bill be rescinded, but Labour Minister Effie Achtsioglou refused. Greece needs to pass the reform regulation and a raft of other measures for lenders to sign off on a review of progress in its bailout programme, which the country hopes to exit this summer.