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General strike against attacks on workers' rights paralyses Greece

GREECE was paralysed by a general strike against attacks on workers’ rights today, with massive rallies dominating Athens.

The Bill being pushed through parliament by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s conservative government claims to modernise labour law by making work more “flexible” — for example by dropping the eight-hour maximum working day — and allowing employers and workers to strike individual agreements on terms and conditions, effectively abolishing collective bargaining rights. 

Trade unionists with the Communist-affiliated Pame union federation filled the central Panepistimiou street while a parallel rally along Stadiou street was held by the GSEE federation. Public-sector federation Adedy declared: “The Bill will not pass!” 

Public transport was entirely shut down by the strike, leading many marchers to walk miles to reach the city centre.

Addressing the strikers, Communist Party of Greece leader Dimitris Koutsoumpas called on the Greek people to “understand and realise your power, you can use it, send [the Bill] where it belongs — the dustbin.

“Don’t live like slaves in the 21st century,” he said.

Syriza leader and former prime minister Alexis Tsipras, who also marched, described the Bill as a “monstrosity.” The leaders of Greek social-democratic party Pasok, Fofi Gennimata, and former finance minister Yannis Varoufakis, who heads the European Realistic Disobedience Front, joined the rallies too.

The opposition say the government is exploiting emergency measures adopted during the coronavirus crisis to permanently roll back workers’ rights.

Contingents from workers taking ongoing strike action at firms including the Kavala Fertilisers Factory and the Larco mining and metallurgy company against job losses and site closures marched under the banners of their local trade union organisations.

Migrant and refugee organisations joined anti-racist groups in organising buses to the rally, with the Pakistani Community of Greece-Unity, Bangladesh Community Association, Cameroonian Community Association and Guinea Community. Kurdish and Turkish left organisations also helped organise the demo.

Refugees from Syria, Iraq, Morocco and Algeria, including many travelling from holding camps, who joined the rallies were cheered by strikers. The Greek government is also pushing through new anti-immigration laws and has been criticised for illegal refoulement of refugees who reach its territory.

Rallies took place elsewhere in Greece, including in Thessaloniki. The Bill is due to be voted on in parliament next week.

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