Socialists and trade unionists fighting austerity in Greece spoke to Patrick Ward

Kostas Katarachias, Doctor and union general secretary at Agios Savvas cancer hospital, Athens

Last autumn we saw two months of continuous mobilisations. There were all-out strikes, demonstrations and occupations in the hospitals.

In my hospital we set up meetings to organise from below. We held demonstrations of thousands.

Some people’s pay fell by 30 per cent when our new wage rates were announced a month ago.

And as many workers also have loan repayments deducted from their wages, they now get paid next to nothing.

Around half of Greece’s hospitals are threatened with closure. The government has already tried to close some hospitals, but we have resisted and have had some victories.

Hospital workers around the country are now coordinating at a rank and file level. Nearly every day there are demonstrations and rank and file meetings.

The government introduced new charges for hospital patients, but many of the collection offices have been occupied. This stops collection.

Workers from 15 hospitals occupied the Ministry of Health in Athens. We held a general assembly, where people demanded an all-out strike.

Another exciting development is at a hospital in Kilkis in the north. Staff have taken control of managing the hospital, and are taking steps to bring the hospital under workers’ control.

Kostas Pittas, union rep, ministry of energy

Workers occupied the Ministry of Energy and Development in response to government plans to privatise the energy grid.

Over 50 power workers and civil service workers occupied and 200 protested outside.

We went into the office of the energy minister and surrounded him. We blocked the doors, and forced him to “negotiate”.

He told us, “no privatisation means no loan from the Troika”. We told him he was bullshitting.

The minister was locked in for about three hours before police freed him through the basement and led him out past a picket line.

This wasn’t the first time we have occupied the building.

We occupied 15 ministries for 12 days in October. When the troika came there was no place for them to meet. Everywhere was occupied.

Over the past two years we have had 15 general strikes. We’ve seen strikes in steel, the media, hospitals and elsewhere—some of them all-out.

This has fed everyone’s confidence.

Socialist Worker (UK)

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