I turned on the car radio the other day, as I do most mornings, to listen to the talk shows, which usually involve two or three people shouting at and talking over one another in the universal Greek style of discourse, employed whether in a debate on the parliament floor or in discussing the weather with a friend. But it is great language practice, so I listen faithfully. But on this day, I found none of the usual talk on my regular station, only a steady stream of ’80s pop hits. I tried another station and found more of the same. Eventually, I heard the announcement–due to a strike by broadcast personnel, there would be no live radio until Friday evening. No talk shows, no news.
A few days previous, our attorney informed us that he couldn’t file our long-awaited petition regarding my residency status because the court personnel were on strike. The following day when I tried to take the train into downtown, I found that the train personnel were on strike. Fortunately, I didn’t have any important doctors’ appointments because the health and medical personnel were all on strike.
In the last week or so, thousands of farmers have occupied the country’s only main high-speed roadway with their tractors, in protest of the proposed changes to the country’s pension and tax systems, which would result in them paying in substantially more and getting out less. Tens of thousands of public employees and independent professionals have taken to the streets of Athens in protest of the same measures, causing closings of downtown streets and government and private offices.
At some point in the Greek crisis, an enterprising group set up what is probably the most useful website in the country–www.apergia.gr–“apergia” meaning strike, the site offers a one-stop look at everything you need to know about current and upcoming strikes, work stoppages, demonstrations, office closures, etc.
Checking out the site today, I see that the metro, tram, and bus employees will be striking on Tuesday and Thursday this week, so no going downtown on those days. I guess I won’t try to get away from it all by taking a last-minute trip to the islands, since the ferry workers are also going on strike. Fortunately, I don’t have plans to bring any shipping containers in through the Corinth Canal because those folks are going on strike too. At least we can always attend a nice concert or play to take our minds off the chaos–or maybe not–the employees of the city’s major concert hall are also going on strike.
Farmers, pharmacists, notaries, municipal employees, national government employees, doctors, court staff, teachers, taxi drivers, and engineers, among other groups, have all carried out work stoppages in the past two weeks or so, as the national government attempts to push through pension and tax reform legislation demanded by the Eurozone creditors.
When Tsipras was elected, I said that I pitied him for the impossible position in which he would inevitably end up, having to try to please both the nation’s creditors and the masses of Greek people opposed to further austerity measures. Now he and his Syriza government are at the critical point of trying to push through the massively unpopular pension and tax changes that formed a central part of the deal that kept Greece in the Eurozone.
Can the Syriza government survive this challenge? Tsipras’s personal popularity has kept the government afloat until now, the Greek people having shown a remarkable degree of patience with new austerity measures thus far. But this latest challenge may be too much–a recent poll has the until recently much-reviled and discredited New Democracy party leading Syriza for the first time since Tsipras came to power.
For Tsipras and Syriza it’s a no-win situation–push through the unpopular reforms and lose the support of the majority of Greeks or fail to do so and lose all credibility with the Eurozone lenders. As I said before, I’m glad I’m not in his shoes.