Most parts of the country are expected to be without power at various points during the day on Thursday as Public Power Corporation (PPC) workers begin rolling strikes in protest at the government’s privatization plans, which Prime Minister Antonis Samaras insisted he has no intention of abandoning.
The strikes are not expected to cause a nationwide blackout but will force PPC officials to cut off power to customers throughout the day. Unionists, protesting the creation of a “small PPC” that will be sold to investors, said they want to keep the inconvenience to a minimum.
“There is no danger of a blackout,” the head of the Spartakos union, Giorgos Adamidis, told Kathimerini. “We are going on strike at all of PPC’s production units and mines from Komotini to Arcadia but nobody said that all the plants would go off line at the same time. The action will be staggered because nobody wants the country to be plunged into darkness.”
PPC will be forced to import more expensive electricity from abroad in order to ensure there is an adequate supply for as long as the strikes go on.
Samaras brushed off concerns, insisting that the government would go ahead with the spinoff, which would lead to the new company taking on 30 percent of PPC’s customers.
“There is no way I would allow fanatic populists and those who create false impressions to take away our right to progress,” said Samaras from Strasbourg. “Privatizations, among other things, are connected to our right to progress.”
The prime minister cited the example of OTE telecom’s sale as a successful privatization and denied that the government was involved in a fire sale of Greece’s best assets.
“We are trying to carry out privatizations in Greece that have been done everywhere in the world and which have paid off,” he added.
If the strike goes ahead and has a high participation rate, the government is expected to take legal action to try to prevent it. If this is not successful, the coalition has indicated it is willing to issue the striking workers with civil mobilization orders.
SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras visited a power plant in Florina, northern Greece, on Wednesday to express his party’s support for the PPC workers. He also made a surprise political move by calling for a referendum to be held on whether part of PPC should be privatized.
The opposition party plans to start talks with other groups on Thursday to see if there would be the requisite support in Parliament for such a move. At first, the proposal for a referendum would need the support of at least 120 of 300 MPs before it could be put before Parliament. Then, it would need the votes of at least 180 MPs for a plebiscite to be held.
Although Democratic Left (DIMAR) and Independent Greeks indicated that they would be willing to back the idea of a referendum, the Communist Party (KKE) said that it would only support a plebiscite if people are allowed to vote on the liberalization of the electricity sector in general and not just on the sale of small PPC.