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TUC expresses solidarity with Greece; Labour remains silent

Greek demonstrationThe TUC General Council this week expressed its solidarity with the people and trade unions of Greece in no uncertain terms. If only the political wing of the Labour movement would follow suit! Some Labour MPs have individually signed a supportive early day motion but even they are surprisingly few. We’d urge readers to do something about it.

The TUC statement said:

Greek workers and their families and communities have suffered terribly in the five years since the financial crisis began, and in particular since the troika – the European Commission, European Central Bank and the IMF – imposed the infamous Memorandum on the Greek people. Austerity and structural reforms have shrunk the economy by a quarter, produced unemployment of over 25% (over 50% for young people) and seen public services slashed or even closed down as is the case with the public service broadcaster ERB. Minimum wages and pensions have been cut, collective bargaining rights and a voice for workers on the economy have been destroyed, and lives have been ruined: even suicide rates have risen dramatically. The TUC expressed its concern and solidarity with Greek workers and their unions in a resolution at Congress in 2013 and we have since worked closely with the Greece Solidarity Campaign – our support for which we reiterate – and our sister organisations in Greece.

These measures have not been confined to Greece – they are part of a global assault on workers and ordinary people which has led to increasing inequality, falling living standards for the majority and any gains from growth going to the already rich and powerful. Across Europe, workers’ rights are under attack and living standards have fallen or been frozen. Deflation – in part due to lack of wages-driven demand and in some countries excessive personal debt – is now the biggest risk facing the European economies.

The election of the Syriza-led government in Greece in January has therefore given hope not only to the Greek people but to people across Europe. It has already signalled its commitment to meet union demands big and small, such as restoring the value of minimum wages and pensions, pro-poor social policies, reopening the ERB public service broadcaster, re-employing the striking cleaners at the Finance Ministry and ceasing the privatisation of Piraeus port, as well as giving Greek-born children of migrants citizenship rights. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has gone on record pledging “to end the medieval regulation of the labour market created by the troika to serve the interests of the oligarchs”, meaning the restoration of collective wage bargaining. The TUC welcomes these moves.

We urge the international community – and especially European institutions and governments – to give Greece room to breathe economically. As ETUC General Secretary Bernadette Segol has said: “Greece’s debt burden is unbearable and must be relieved. European Union policies have created a disaster.” In particular, we call on those governments currently resisting the negotiation of a fair deal on Greek debt to consider the hardship imposed by the Memorandum, and the likely beneficiaries of any further moves to over-ride the democratic will of the Greek people, including the neo-nazis in Golden Dawn who pose a threat to social cohesion and trade unionism.

We urge progressive politicians across the EU to learn the lesson that it is the role of democratically elected governments to protect workers’ fundamental human rights and people’s living standards from market forces rather than the other way around. And we call on trade unionists in the UK and across Europe to show solidarity with the Greek workers and unions in defending the Greek government’s programme of social justice and redistribution, and its programme of genuine structural reform to tackle the power of the oligarchs.

So far, only 22 Labour MPs have managed to sign the Early Day Motion in support of the victory of Syriza and the end of austerity, alongside two from Plaid Cymru, one Green, One Respect and one former Lib-Dem now sitting as an independent. The text of that reads:

That this House welcomes the support for the Syriza party in Greece, which is committed to ending years of austerity and suffering on the Greek people; notes that there have been huge increases in unemployment with a consequent loss of health insurance for over one million workers as well as substantial wage and pension cuts, a crisis of public health and the erosion of basic rights; further notes that such a method has failed to reboot the Greek economy and the public debt in relation to gross domestic product which is now far greater than before that programme started in 2010; believes that the Greek people support a new path which will undoubtedly mean that there will be pressure on the new Government from some quarters not to deliver this change; states its confidence in a government that will face down such pressures and defend the democratic choice of the people of Greece; and applauds Syriza’s immediate priorities to end the austerity programme, renegotiate the public debt so a proportion can be cancelled and link repayment or the remainder to economic growth and to address the humanitarian crisis with support for the poorest and to create a more equal, democratic and just society, supported by a sustainable economy.

Readers might want to enquire of their own MPs why they haven’t signed this EDM (No 729). The ones who have are:

Abbott, Diane
Anderson, David
Campbell, Ronnie
Clark, Katy
Corbyn, Jeremy
Davidson, Ian
Godsiff, Roger
Hain, Peter
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, George
Lavery, Ian
McDonnell, John
McInnes, Liz
Meacher, Michael
Mearns, Ian
Riordan, Linda
Skinner, Dennis
Stringer, Graham
Vaz, Valerie
Williamson, Chris
Winnick, David
Wood, Mike

2 Comments

  1. Patrick says:

    The PLP is largely full of people who believe you cannot buck the market and that at best their job is to mitigate it’s more egregious effects without rocking the capitalist boat; at all. The above list are the usual suspects; remnants of the Campaign Group plus a few others.

    The Party has failed to hold back the cuts notably in local government where there has been zero resistance.

    The PLP are holding their breath that growth will return when a far more likely scenario is the Japan example; Labour will not/cannot redistribute without growth and therefore voters may either prefer the real-Tories or turn to other available options: SNP and Greens presently; you have to be pessimistic for the Party and its prospects so long as it fails to provide any ideological leadership or otherwise to the working class majority.

  2. Jon Williams says:

    Agree that’s Labour’s dilemma – a more left wing agenda will keep the activists (core vote) happy but lose progressive support. It’s finding that balance between core Labour voters and tempting more middle England to vote Labour…

    If Labour does win in May it will have to weather the Market storm that will follow. The Last election highlighted Market pressure to form a government as quickly as possible to “steady” City nerves. Labour will suffer even more Market pressure to keep the Austerity agenda.

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