Troika inspectors warned of social dangers if review fails to see toll of austerity measures on Greek people

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE) met with Greek Labour Minister Ioannis Vroutsis to deliver a stark warning from workers that the orthodox economic policies promoted by the Troika – the IMF, European Central Bank and European Commission – are not delivering for the Greek people or economy.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said the Troika must rethink the economic advice they are giving to the Greek Government and consider the impact of their policies on people during their visit to Athens this week.

“The Troika needs to start by looking at the incomes of working people and unemployed. If you have more than 20% of the workforce unemployed and 50% young people excluded from secure jobs and livelihoods, and a minimum wage that has been cut by up to 32%, people will not be able to survive,” said Sharan Burrow.

For institutions like the IMF, European Central Bank and the European Commission, the figures for fiscal stability have been the only economic measures that have driven policies.

“There is a lack of sanity on the part of these institutions. You can’t keep putting money into the bond markets and the banks, but have countries where people can’t eat, feed their children or pay their bills. This is an economic model that is not creating jobs, protecting livelihoods or providing the social protection that people need to stabilise the economy,” said Sharan Burrow.

The ITUC Global Poll 2012 from market research company TNS of the general public in Greece is a warning for the Greece Government and international economic governance.

The poll showed:
- 91% of people think Greece is going in the wrong direction.
- 77% think that future generations will be worse off.
- 90% can’t save any money.

“You cannot sustain or grow an economy on the basis of only 3% of people who think their incomes have gone ahead of the cost of living. Or where 91% don’t feel that their jobs are secure.

“The Troika and the Greek Government cannot continue to pursue a policy of abolishing the minimum wage – and they cannot continue to pursue the destruction of collective bargaining if Greece is to have any hope of recovery,” said Sharan Burrow.

Greek unions want to re-negotiate and restore the minimum wage, which was cut by 32 % for workers under 25 and 22 % for all other workers.

“The main priorities for the GSEE is to restore the minimum wage to its previous levels to re-instate the national general collective labour agreement and to maintain the social policies provided by the now abolished ‘Workers Social Fund’ and ‘Workers Housing Organisation’, which were funded exclusively by workers and employer contributions.
“We signed together with employers the national general collective labour agreement. But this framework was contested and reversed at the explicit demand of the Troika and adopted by the Government,” said Yannis Panagopolous, President GSEE.

“All across Greece what we see is people losing hope. When a nation loses hope, then the faith in democratic institutions and labour institutions break down, and social unrest is the ultimate outcome,” said Sharan Burrow.

In testimony from workers to the ITUC Global Panel of Inquiry held in Athens today, workers gave evidence of how they can’t survive on their wages and their fears of losing their jobs, as many families only have one person in work.

“Women and men have told us that they are frightened to have children because they will not be able to support them – you can see how austerity is breaking down the fabric of this nation.
“People are being discarded, as the interests of banks and bond markets come before families,” said Sharan Burrow.