Published on
Common Dreams

'Take Our Undies Next!': Austerity Leaves Greek Workers with Little Left

'We can no longer live on what we earn,' say workers in Athens

Beth Brogan, staff writer

Municipality workers hold banners and shout slogans as they march in central Athens. Photograph: Orestis Panagiotou / EPA)

Thousands of civil servants, doctors, teachers and others staged a 24-hour strike in Athens on Wednesday to protest new pay cuts and anticipated layoffs required by international lenders as part of a financial bailout.

But the "austerity measures" required by the International Monetary Fund and European Union leave many in or near poverty, those who marched on Wednesday said.

"We can no longer live on what we earn, so what's the point?" said Nikos Stamatopoulos, leader of the Athens subway workers' union, whose monthly salary has been cut from €1,700 ($2,240) to €800 ($1,050) next year. "We'll keep fighting these (cuts) because we have to."

The Associated Press reports that one group of marchers held up a mock clothes line with the words "Take These Too" written across 16 pairs of underpants.

To appease the IMF and EU—have agreed to a total of €240 billion in loans and debt write-off, the BBC reported—the Greek government agreed to steep spending cuts including pay cuts, reduced pensions and social services.

Wednesday's strike halted public transportation and other services, and public hospitals were running on emergency staff, the Associated Press reports.

Doctors, teachers and municipal workers, represented by the GSEE, joined public service workers in the walkout, and the Communist-affiliated PAME group was expected to hold a separate rally, al-Jazeera reports.


If you think a better world is possible, support our people-powered media model today

The corporate media puts the interests of the 1% ahead of all of us. That's wrong. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

If you believe the survival of independent media is vital to a healthy democracy, please step forward with a donation to nonprofit Common Dreams today:

Al-Jazeera continues:

Some domestic flights were grounded and about 100 workers occupied the headquarters of Athens' city train company on Wednesday in protest at planned wage cuts.

Train workers also started a 48-hour strike against the conservative-led coalition's plans to privatise Greece's national railways.

Still, Wednesday's strike was smaller than others in recent months, reports The Guardian, apparently because people could not afford to lose a day's pay.

Ilias Illiopoulos, general secretary of ADEDY, the Greek trade union, told The Guardian in Athens, "I think people thought about their Christmas meal and what they would have on the table and didn’t want to lose the money. Every time we take part in a strike we not only lose our salary for the day but have to fork out for social insurance as well.”

The Guardian continued:

But Iliopoulos cautioned that the government should not expect such an easy ride in the new year.

“The main slogan today was that we will continue, without taking a step back, to resist these policies until they are overturned,” he told me. “And we won’t hesitate to exhaust ourselves in our efforts to kick out a government that has decided to cooperate with the troika and speculators who are profiting at our expense.”

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news outlet. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Won't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

Share This Article

More in: