The future of union action

Without doubt, workers have an undisputed and inalienable right to strike when their union leaders deem that the government is transgressing their legitimate interests. That said, the main bankers’ union, OTOE, which decided to extend the bank employees’ strike until the end of the week, should ask itself whether the vested interests of Emporiki and National Bank are harmonious with current economic conditions. Furthermore, OTOE should ponder the social implications of its lengthy action, especially its adverse repercussions on the financial markets. Public surveys show that the majority of voters disapprove of the union action protesting the government’s reform campaign. OTOE shows it is out of sync with the major developments that have changed the face of the global economy by calling on the Emporiki bank employees to strike. OTOE wants them to defend privileges that the institution cannot guarantee in the long term because the bank does not have the necessary capital to sustain them in the future. If the strike is successful, the bank may actually have to shut down because of insufficient funds. National Bank would be sidelined by private banks which, by making lower contributions to employees’ social security funds, are more competitive than the former. One cannot help but wonder about the point of a strike whose success – the fulfillment of union demands – would undermine businesses and create mass unemployment. That is, unless unions are driven by political opportunism. Perhaps OTOE wants to join hands with Christos Polyzogopoulos, chief of the General Confederation of Greek Labor, who lately appears to have rediscovered the need for class struggle against the deregulation of the labor market. Polyzogopoulos should rather consult Vasso Papandreou, a fellow Socialist figure in PASOK’s political council, who recently visited Sweden – a country that has been under socialist rule for the past 40 years – and was stunned to see a flexible labor market combined with a robust welfare state. If union leaders want to be deemed worthy and stage fruitful strikes and not just lead groups of parasites, then they should first examine the rapid changes taking place in the global economy, follow reforms, and suggest solutions so that gains from economic growth are distributed equitably.

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