International Trade Union Confederation: IMF should stop attacks against pensions and workers’ rights in Greece


The ITUC has attacked the IMF over its hard-line stand on Greece, including its demands that the Greek government should dismantle workers’ rights. The global union body expressed its strong support to its affiliated organisation in Greece, GSEE, at a moment when unreasonable austerity and deregulatory reform demands could force the country to default to the IMF as early as next month.


In June, the government will have to choose between maintaining vital public services and pension payments, and carrying out loan reimbursements to the international lender largely responsible for Greece’s current predicament.

ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow stated: “The ITUC finds unacceptable that the IMF has taken a hard-line stance within the Troika, or ‘Brussels Group’, and is pressuring EU lenders not to make loan disbursements unless Greece cuts pensions such that the basic level will be €360 per month, below the subsistence level. With more than a quarter of the labour force out of work, a large share of households have come to rely on pensions as their only stable source of income and will be pushed into poverty if pensions are further reduced.”

The IMF has also made demands that would intensify the dismantling of rights of Greek workers, most of whom have already lost collective bargaining coverage, by fully liberalising collective dismissals, abolishing the law that protects trade union activities and placing new restrictions on the right to strike. “Greece’s labour laws are consistent with EU norms,” said Burrow. “The IMF’s apparent intent to eliminate workers’ collective voice in Greece will do nothing to achieve recovery but may succeed in ensuring that inequality will grow by leaps and bounds. The IMF should show some consistency with its own research on the negative impacts of inequality. It should respect workers’ rights and support an equitable tax reform in Greece.”

The ITUC pointed out that when the IMF concluded its first loan agreement with Greece in May 2010, it predicted that its programme would restore economic growth within two years, with unemployment peaking at less than 15 per cent and public debt at less than 150 per cent of GDP. In reality, unemployment has exceeded 25 per cent since 2012, and the debt-GDP ratio currently stands at 180 per cent despite a partial debt write-down three years ago.

“Given the IMF’s utterly inept performance in failing to predict the level of depression and indebtedness that its loan conditions caused, it is understandable that the Greek electorate was sceptical of Troika promises of prosperity around the corner when it elected a new government in January,” said Sharan Burrow. “After five years of destructive austerity and structural adjustment, the IMF and other international lenders should stop their obstructionism, make loan disbursements on the previously agreed extensions and support the Greek people’s efforts to rebuild their economy through policies that give priority to employment creation. We call on the IMF to desist in its mindless attack on workers’ wages, rights and pensions.”

Source : Opens external link in new windowITUC

The experience of Greece demonstrates the importance of building a pan European movement based on values of solidarity and deep democracy. Thank you for doing so much to organise this .
Hilary Wainwright| Red Pepper magazine |

"This is sheer unbridled sadism. The Greek people are being punished for the failure of the neo-liberal consensus to avert the hideous and increasing forms of inequality which were always inscribed within its mandate. Nothing can explain why the most powerful countries of Europe should want to continue to impose on Greece policies which have brought it to the brink of collapse, other than the desire to precipitate a true collapse which they will then take as the proof that only their vicious system could have saved it - a self-defeating argument and a blatant lie. We can only speculate what unconscious links there must be between the forgiving of Germany's post-war debt, of which it remains the beneficiary to this day and without which it would not be in a position to dictate its terms, and its refusal to countenance any such forgiveness, let alone the paying of war reparations, to Greece. No logic can explain it. We have entered the realm of the cruellest social fantasy. The irony is that the whole of Europe will now suffer. But our hearts go out to the Greek people who will suffer - who are already suffering - most."

Jacqueline Rose, Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities.

Étienne Balibar :"The struggle of the Greek people is the struggle of all European democrats, of all those who believe in human progress . In the case of a potential defeat all European peoples would pay the price. In the case of a potential victory, as limited as it may be, all European peoples would benefit. That's why it is necessary for those French and European forces who have hope in the renewal of democracy to positively answer the calls of Syriza to build European solidarity around Greece and the Greek people. The perspective of a referendum urgently requires the reinforcement of this solidarity"

Slavoj Zizek: "The struggle that goes on is the struggle for theEuropean economic and political Leitkultur.The EU powers stand for the technocratic status quo which is keeping Europe ininertia for decades. In his NotesTowards a Definition of Culture, the great conservative T.S.Eliot remarkedthat there are moments when the only choice is the one between heresy andnon-belief, i.e., when the only way to keep a religion alive is to perform asectarian split from its main corpse. This is our position today with regard toEurope: only a new "heresy" (represented at this moment by Syriza) can savewhat is worth saving in European legacy: democracy, trust in people,egalitarian solidarity. The Europe that will win if Syriza is outmaneuvered isa "Europe with Asian values" (which, of course, has nothing to do with Asia,but all with the clear and present tendency of contemporary capitalism to suspenddemocracy). We from Western Europe like to look upon Greece as if we aredetached observers who follow with compassion and sympathy the plight of theimpoverished nation. Such a comfortable standpoint relies on a fateful illusion- what goes on in Greece these last weeks concerns all of us, it is the futureof Europe which is at stake. So when we read about Greece these days, we shouldalways bear in mind that, as the old saying goes, de te fabula narrator."

 "The behavior of the Troika today is a disgrace. One can scarcely doubt that their goal is to make it clear that defiance to the northern banks and the Brussels bureaucracy will not be tolerated, and that thoughts of democracy and popular will must be abandoned. Other than power, there is no reason to continue with the shameful farce in which French and German banks profit from the suffering of the people of Greece."The debt should have been radically restructured long ago, or simply declared “odious” and cancelled. Today, Greeks are offered a miserable choice between two painful alternatives. One can only hope that their brave resistance to the brutal assault will encourage global solidarity that will save them and others from the harsh fate dictated by the masters."

Noam CHOMSKY | United States | MIT


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