by Aggelos Skordas
Clashes between trade unionists and riot police forces erupted on Tuesday morning in downtown Athens, during a demonstration against SYRIZA-ANEL coalition government’s decision to limit the unions’ right to strike. The protest outside the Ministry of Labor was organised by PAME (All-Workers Militant Front), a trade union affiliated with the Communist Party of Greece (KKE). A group of protestors, after breaking the police cordon, tore the Ministry’s building metal shutters and invaded its entrance. They then were involved in clashes with more police forces guarding the Ministry, resulting with the injury of one demonstrator and one riot police officer.
A few minutes later PAME members reached Syntagma Square where they joined unionists of the Public Sector Employee Union (ADEDY) and marched towards Maximos Mansion, the seat of the Prime Minister of Greece. Riot police once again blocked their way, before protestors reached Premier Alexis Tsipras’ office, and made extended use of tear gas. Earlier, a smaller group of youth demonstrators, also participating in the protest, tried to enter the Parliament building but police forces repulsed them.
“When the Minister refused to meet with the protesters PAME entered with force and put down the sign of the Ministry of Labor, as the Ministry only represents the employers and not the workers. The demonstration then reached the Parliament, where at the entrance of the Greek Parliament the protesters wrote ‘Hands down from our right to strike’. The demonstration reached the Prime Minister’s house, which was surrounded by police. The police had blocked the street and when the protesters attempted to reach the Prime Minister’s house it responded with tear gas and chemicals”, a statement issued by PAME after Tuesday’s clashes reads.
It should be noted that despite the Labor Ministry on Monday night announcing it is withdrawing the contentious amendment -tabled only hours earlier- that would toughen strike rules for unions the rally was carried out as planned. The proposed amendment, among others, demanded an increased percentage of union members required to approve a strike, from 20 percent to 50 percent. According to government sources, the amendments that caused unionists’ and opposition parties’ strong reaction will be modified and tabled in Parliament in the future.
Moreover, Greece’s largest labor unions have called for a 24-hour strike against the proposed labor reforms on Thursday December 14. The reforms were agreed between the Greek government and the country’s creditors as part of the prerequisites for the completion of the third review of the ongoing bailout program.