Greece: the New Haiti
Someone has leaked to the UK Guardian an email the “troika” (consisting of the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund) recently sent the Greek government with additional conditions they plan to impose as a condition of the next bailout. These new conditions confirm what many of us suspected all along – that the so-called Greece’s so-called “austerity” measures aren’t about balancing budgets or even sound economic policy. Like the structural adjustment packages the IMF is notorious for imposing on third world countries, the EU’s plans for Greece are about exploitation. The goal is to brutalize Greek workers into accepting sweatshop wages and working conditions that will make the country attractive to multinational corporate investors.
Imposing a Six Day Work Week
Despite the fact Greek workers already work 2017 hours per year, which is more than any other EU country (German workers average 1408 hours per year), the troika is demanding they increase their work hours by adopting a six day work week. Additional “troika” demands include reducing the mandatory daily rest requirement to eleven hours, eliminating restrictions on the minimum break between morning and afternoon shifts, reducing the minimum wage, reducing employer pension and welfare contributions, cutting laid-off workers severance package by 50% and reducing employer reporting requirements to the Greek Labor Inspectorate, which monitors unsafe working conditions and unfair labor practices.
These demands come on top of prior severe austerity cuts that have caused the Greek economy to shrink by 7%, an extreme level of deflation leading to the shutdown of 68,000 businesses, 33% unemployment and widespread malnutrition, preventable illness and suicide.
Readers can read the full “troika” memo on Zero Hedge. They need to be mindful that the IMF’s malignant designs aren’t limited to Greece. The international agency has a long standing agenda of making labor markets safe for multinational corporations. If and when Greece agrees to these conditions, the IMF will surely surely turn their attention to Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and other EU countries struggling to refinance their sovereign debt. Don’t doubt for a moment their intentions to impose the same kind of austerity cuts and labor deregulation on the UK and the US. The US will be low hanging fruit in this regard. Owing to extremely low union membership, American workers are expected to offer little organized resistance.
Lessons from Haiti
A close look at the neoliberal reforms the IMF and World Bank have imposed on Haiti following the devastating 2010 earthquake is instructive in understanding what lies in store for the indebted industrial north. (I remind readers that the US was instrumental in two coups – in 1996 and 2004 – against Haiti’s democratically elected president Jean Baptiste Aristide. He was allowed to return to Haiti in Jan 2011 after agreeing to a law that forbids him from ever standing for president again.).
In case people wonder why hundreds of thousands of Port-Au-Prince residents still live in tents, they need to understand there has been virtually no aid directed towards government and non-profit agencies that could potentially re-house them. Instead international lending institutions and US agencies (such as USAID) have narrowly focused international aid on the implementation of a longstanding US/IMF agenda (revealed in 1996 Wikileaks cables) of privatizing Haiti’s state owned utilities (electricity, airport, seaport, telephone, health) to open them up to foreign investment and creating low wage, sweatshop-like enterprise zones producing garments and other labor-intensive manufactured goods.
Matt Kinnard writes about the “forensic” investigation he has conducted into the IMF’s shameful treatment of Haiti in the Aug 14 Open Democracy.