After three difficult years of hard but systematic work, with compromises that had to be made but also important victories in battles seen as hopeless, Greece was finally able to stand on its feet again, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras noted in a message for Labour Day.
“We are exiting the programmes cleanly, without the new commitments that many considered a foregone conclusion,” he said.
Since that first May 1 strike in Chicago in 1886, workers have held protests on May 1 to defend the right to work with decent pay and conditions, Tsipras noted, but in post-crisis Europe the struggle is focused on demanding work itself and the structures of the social state, as the foundation stone of economic and social progress.
“We are fighting this battle in the most adverse conditions of neoliberal capitalism, in the Greece of memorandums that bred widespread precariousness and insecurity on all levels,” he said.
He noted that, as the exit from the programme drew near, the government had managed to fend off many IMF demands concerning labour rights but the best news was undoubtedly the steady drop in unemployment rates, which had fallen from 27.2 pct in April 2014 to 20 pct at present.
“In this way, as the programme ends, we are gradually passing to a new age of normality that allows us to once again plan the country’s production model and place workers at its centre. This means, first and foremost, restoring collective agreements and raising the minimum wage. It also means that, for the first time in years, the implementation of an organised policy for fighting unemployment,” Tsipras said.
This included systematic inspections to combat undeclared and underdeclared employment, imposing penalties on employers that broke the law, he added.
Ending his message, Tsipras noted that, while much remained to be done, protection of labour and social cohesion was a condition for democracy and also served as an example in Europe, which was at risk from authoritarianism and far-right populism.