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Greece

Greece returns to the Middle Ages as it prepares to go to the polls

IN THE RADICAL PRESS / IL MANIFESTO

Wages have decreased between 25 and 30% in a year. There are virtually no collective agreements. And over 33,000 Greeks on individual contracts who have had their pay cut between 20 and 28%. And last Saturday, there was a new political suicide, writes Argiris Panagopoulos 

In Greece, the vote is close, while the population starts life with medieval working conditions, precarious and poorly paid.

On May 6 thirty-two parties are competing for only 250 seats, as the law gives the leading party 50 of the 300-seat parliament, cheating the people of one-sixth of the seats.

The fragmented and fractious left is banking on the defeat of the parties of the Memorandum, which have strong support from Berlin, Brussels, industrialists, bankers and the big media owners. Among the candidates of New Democracy, are the sons of the founder and director of Dol, the largest media group in Greece.

In the meantime the news coming from the real economy is catastrophic. Incomes have dropped between 25 and 30% in a year, according to the OECD, which calculates that, after taxes, the annual income of an unmarried worker declined on average by 25.5%.

As if that wasn’t enough, collective wage agreements have almost disappeared. Thanks to the miracle of the Troika, in the past eight weeks 33,133  individual contracts were signed in 7,825 companies, with cuts in salaries between 22% and 28%, cuts that in some cases have exceeded 50%.

For the few company level contracts the reduction of wages is between 22.35% and 40%, according to official data from  labour inspectors body Sepe. In many cases employers wait until existing collective contracts expire to blackmail and force workers into signing individual contracts with sharp cuts in their salaries.

50% of new labour contracts concern temporary work or reduced hours, while contracts with full-time work fell by 21% in the first quarter. According to Eurostat, labour costs in Greece were about two thirds of the average labour cost per hour in the eurozone in 2010, even before the sharp cuts of 2011; they were a meagre €17.30 per hour, compared to €26.9 in EU. According to new data, pensioners have seen their pensions cut  between 12% and 40% over the past two years while seven out of ten young people are ready to emigrate.

If the Greeks are in a bad way, its even worse for immigrants. The Socialist Minister for Citizens Security Chrisoxoidis continues police raids in central Athens, trying to stop Golden Dawn’s thugs’ ferocious attacks against immigrants. Chrisoxoidis told Parliament last Wednesday that the first major concentration camp for immigrants in Greece will be operational in the first part of next week.

To promote his campaign to return to parliament in PASOK lists, the “sheriff” has promised that ‘Athens will be cleansed in a few days’ of immigrants. Tsipras, president of SYRIZA, has called in vain for his immediate removal from ministry. New Democracy led by  Samaras and PASOK led by Venizelos continue their campaign but, with some nuances, have the same electoral programmes: the application of the Memorandum signed with the [ECB-EU-IMF] Troika.

For its part, the Troika is exercising as much pressure as it can on the Greek electorate to stop the sharp rise of the left and the fragmentation of the electorate’s conservative New Democracy towards the populism of Independent Greeks, the extreme right and neo-fascists of Golden Dawn. The Troika announced yesterday that between 15 and 21 May it will be in Athens to “meet” the representatives of the new government and will return a few weeks later to monitor the implementation of the second Memorandum and set new cuts of €11.6 billion for 2013-2014.

If the recession is deeper than a 4.70% fall in GDP for 2012 there will be a need for further cuts, while the Central Bank of Greece has already forecast a recession of 5% for 2012. [EU President] Barroso, for his part, has indirectly warned the electorate of the harmful consequences of a Greek default.

Barroso’s policies were paid for by the life of 38 year old Polibos Nikos, who on Wednesday committed suicide because he was tired of the two year wait for the place he had won in open competition for the chair of Geology at the University of Athens. His appointment had been frozen by the cuts. Last Saturday, the 45 year old teacher Sabbas Metoikidis, married and with children, committed suicide in Xanthi in the north.

Metoikidis, a protest movement and trade union activist, left a denunciation of the Memorandum. He was a very courageous person. He remains in the collective memory of the protest movements when three years ago he was surrounded by the MAT riot police in a building in central Athens. To protect others, he had come out to the police shouting: “How many of you have been told to stop today? I am a teacher. I will come. Are ten of us enough?’

27.04.2012

Original article in Il Manifesto

Translation by Revolting Europe

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope

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