In Greece they say the fish rots from the head. Greek voters - some of whom are facing pay cuts on average of 25 per cent - will soon have the chance to express their opinion about the country’s political leadership.
Last week I met a leader of the Greek public sector workers union ADEDY. Ilias was keen to refute the stereotype that has given rise to the slur that the current economic crisis in Greece is because of a national inertia.
The fact that he felt it necessary to make the point speaks volumes about the damaging impact of the EU-imposed economic straitjacket on Greece and the impact it has had on the morale of ordinary people.
The head of government is currently an unelected technocrat, following the resignation of the so-called socialist PASOK leader Papandreou, who has done nothing to deny this myth.
Greek unions have held 22 general strikes, big protests that gained popular support. Yet according to Ilias the most effective actions, the ones that made a difference by slowing down or even stopping damaging changes were those when unions joined with students and civil society organisations.
This is food for thought.
On May 10 a handful of unions in the UK will again take strike action in defence of public sector pensions. Teachers, civil servants and NHS employees will be protesting against working longer, paying more and getting less.
The same day the Police Federation will be demonstrating in Whitehall. Students applying for loans to pay the first of the £9,000 annual tuition fee must do so by the 31 May deadline. A busy month that kicks off with May Day – the internationally recognised celebration of organised labour.
So an event that joins the dots between these groups and others would be a powerful force. It is hoped that another TUC led anti-austerity event will be organised for autumn 2012.
Building support for the massive 26 March 2011 ‘March for the Alternative’ created a platform to debate with neighbours, family and friends.
Discussing the problems we face in our day to day lives inevitably leads to thinking about what we can do to change things for the better and that can be the spark to saving a local library or youth service.
The UK’s current double-dip recession is the predictable outcome of the coalition government’s addiction to austerity.
Lack of activity in the construction sector is now a drag on economic recovery and a quick look at cancelled contracts shows the choking effect of dumping socially useful projects such as ‘Building Schools for the Future’.
Last week I attended the centenary celebration of the Labour Relations Department. Looking back on a hundred years of Labour movement history was a timely reminder that there is an alternative.
Comparing post WW1 Tory-Liberal coalition austerity with post WW2 Labour led economic stimulus and investment show the former resulted in deep economic depression and mass unemployment.
Faced with similar difficulties Labour, on the other hand, founded the NHS, established universal access to welfare and built decent, affordable, publicly-owned homes for rent.
We in the UK desperately need affordable homes to rent, jobs and welfare – just look at the current crisis in social care for the elderly and disabled among us. Building homes creates jobs and stimulates growth, for example among suppliers of building materials.
On May 1st workers across the world will celebrate in the face of adversity. It is a day when all trade unionists are reminded of what can be achieved when we pull together here in the UK, in Greece and wherever working people join together and organise.