Greek workers Join Judges in Strike to Protest Austerity


Greece cannot catch a break.  On Thursday, in Athens, after Greece announced more spending cuts that would be a condition of the next bailout, thousands of citizens took to the streets in a general strike of the austerity measures. However, this was not a friendly strike. Protestors were seen throwing petrol bombs at the police, who responded with tear gas. According to the BBC, this was a relatively tame and peaceful protest by Greece’s standards.

This new strike is in addition to the ongoing strike involving judges. For the last month, Greek courts have been at a standstill due to a lack of judges to try cases and grant motions. This is in response to serious cuts in pay that judges have been facing. Some have lost up to 38 percent of their wages.

One major problem with judges going on strike is the backlog in the court system that it creates. For example, two video game designers were arrested for photographing military installations of the island of Limnos. Although these pictures could be useful to the game that they are developing, the designers claim that they were merely vacationing and that the buildings are freely viewable in public places. They were arrested on September 9th and, due to the strike, have been held in custody ever since. It is unlikely that this is an isolated incident.

Austerity measures within the next few years are mandatory if Greece expects to receive more bailout money.  They need to raise 12 billion euros, which will not be easy for the struggling country. The BBC reports that they are about a month away from running out of money. Moreover, they are in the middle of a five year recession and their public sector is notoriously bloated. This is also the twentieth time that there was a general stoppage of labor in Greece within the last two years.

Should Greek workers keep striking? Does the government have other options than massive spending cuts?

Sources: BBC, Reuters, Ars Technica,

One comment

  1. Being a Greek-American has been a source of pride for me throughout my entire life. I have drawn from the lessons of my heritage, relying on the wisdom of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle to inspire me along the way. The legacy of Alexander and his accomplishments are not easily forgotten in my families hometown, which sits beneath Mt. Olympus, just fifty kilometers from Vergina, the capital of the former Macedonian Empire. The recent debacle in Greece, and the unravelling of a society that has given me so much, is truly depressing.

    Unfortunately, the answer to Greece’s problems will not be found in its rich ancient history and culture. Rather, it is Greece’s modern history that holds the answer. It seems to me that the opposition to austerity measures happening now in Greece is a result of a combinations of two things. First, the Greeks have remained emboldened by the events of November 17th, 1973. Secondly, the capital market in Greece has suffered a result of a social-legislation which stifles the economy and inhibits the growth of the workforce by promising broad and seemingly unrealistic rights to the Greek labor force.

    To the first point, Greek citizens have been emboldened by the acts of November 17th, 1973, when the junta military forces quelled student protests by driving tanks over the walls of the Polytechnic University in Athens, killing 23 students. The students were protesting the Junta, a military government widely believed to be planted by the CIA in 1967 to stop Greece’s ever increasing move toward Communism, which began during its civil war from 1946-1949. With the dissolution of the military Junta in 1974, Greece’s newly elected Government ran on a campaign that promised broad reforms and invariable protections to the citizens.

    By the early nineteen-eightees the Greek Government had passed laws creating asylum at State Universities (meaning no security force was allowed on university property), labor laws which gave the Government essentially all power over the national economy, worker’s rights, wages, and the ability to unionize. The result of these laws has been the weakening of the Greek economy and the inability of police to adequately maintain security in the country.

    Certain articles in the 1980’s era labor statutes define things like strikes, unions, wages, and welfare as rights which may not be hindered by the private market. (See Article 22,23,25, and 106 of the Greek Labor Laws). Additionally, the Government reserves the right, by law, to buy out any company that it determines is in violation of the labor laws. The fact is that these laws exist make it next to impossible for private industry to thrive, or for jobs to be created in the private market. Because of the amount of guarantees offered by the Greek Government, there is little incentive for the population to seek competitive, profit-seeking ventures. Rather, in my experience, a large number of Greeks prefer to unionize and strike in an attempt to ensure that they remain to be guaranteed the Government’s protection. This is clearly evidenced by the recent-yet not unprecedented-strikes of the judged, rail workers, taxi drivers, and other government employees.

    The problem with so much governmental protection and so many worker’s rights means that the citizens of Greece have the upper hand. They have the upper hand when it comes to industry and public policy. Now, I am not advocating for a national legal system that does nothing to recognize the rights of its citizens, but Greece’s system has gone too far. Ever since the Greek civil-war the country has been in a tug of war between democracy/socialism and communism. The post-Junta governments have attempted to rectify the oppression of the Junta by making unrealistic and foolish promises to the Greek people. Greece can no longer sustain a system whereby the Government is wholly responsible for the welfare of its people while those same people feel no responsibility to the Government. I fear that little will change in the near future, however, as these trends in Greek governance have become fixed realities. The people of Greece are too imbedded with the idea of entitlement and government protection today: it may take another civil-war or some other catastrophe to help the Greeks see that they must participate in a more capitalistic economy if they wish to repay their debt and get back on their feet to retake their title as a prestigious, progressive, and universally revered nation.

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