Greek workers staged their sixth general strike this year on July 8. The strike halted public transport, stopped ferry services, and closed schools, newspapers, courts and public hospitals.
About 100,000 people took part in protest rallies in Athens and Thessaloniki, chanting: “Workers, answer the war declared by capitalists with war” and “Let the oligarchs pay for the crisis”.
Riot police protected the parliament building in central Athens as MPs debated a law that sought to raise women’s retirement age from 60 to 65. It also required employees to make payments into the state pension fund for 40 years instead of the current 37.
The law makes it cheaper for companies to throw employees on the scrapheap. It is part of an austerity package that the Greek government agreed upon with the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund in return for a €110 billion (about $160 billion) loan.
Greek MPs voted 159-137 in favour of the regressive pension reform in a preliminary vote on July 7.
But Yannis Panagopoulos, who heads the General Confederation of Greek Workers union federation, said: “We reject the pension reform Bill, a Bill that erases fundamental principles — we will not stop fighting because justice is on our side.”
On July 7, the EU released a report praising the social democratic Pasok government, saying the “reforms” were “broadly on track”.
But it went on to warn that unemployment is likely to worsen after hitting a 10-year high of 12.1% in February.
Recent surveys show that support for the Pasok party is collapsing as it presses on with the neoliberal agenda.
A weekend poll for the Athens daily Vima found that almost one in two Greeks are now disillusioned with establishment parties.
If general elections were held now, Pasok would get 23.4% of the votes, compared to the 44% it won in last year’s parliamentary elections.
[Abridged from the British Morning Star.]