Sunday, March 22, 2020

Covid-19 in Greece: KKE on the forefront of the struggle for the protection of workers-people’s health

"The KKE is by your side. No fear, no one alone! Together
we will get through it", reads a Party poster (left).
“We stay strong” is the message of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) which has launched powerful initiatives demanding immediate measures for the protection of the working people’s health in face of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“We stay militant in support of the workers-people’s rights! By the side of doctors and nurses, in their efforts to respond to the “war” but also in their demands for adequate and proper weapons in this war”, writes a post on 902 portal. 

“No fear at all! We defeat fear” says a Party’s slogan, accompanied by posters and banners that call the working people to remain strong and raise their voice for public health’s protection. Numerous banners have been placed in Athens and other cities throughout Greece, expressing KKE's solidarity and support to the working class and the people. 

"The KKE is on your side! No one alone" and "Give money for healthcare and not for NATO's slaughterhouses" are some of the slogans written on the banners. 

During the last days, KKE and its youth wing, KNE, highlight the need for the strengthening of the public healthcare system and those who work in the healthcare sector. 

The Party emphatically rejects the governmental position that the current pandemic crisis is a matter of “personal responsibility” and emphasizes on the responsibility of the state to defend and secure the people’s health.

“When state responsibility is hiding behind personal responsibility” reads a banner published by the Communist Youth (KNE) which refers to fundamental deficiencies of Greece’s healthcare system including 30,000 vacant medical staff posts in public hospitals, 50% decrease of state budget’s spending on healthcare since 2010, closing of more than 10 public hospitals since 2013, etc.

Banners of the KKE and KNE have been placed in various cities throughout Greece, expressing
solidarity to the people and demanding substantial state protection of the people's health and rights.

Statement by the Political Bureau

On March 13, 2020, the Political Bureau of the CC of the KKE proposed specific emergency measures both for the protection of the people's health and the workers' rights. The statement of the PB was pointing out:
In these difficult times, the KKE is positioned with a sense of responsibility towards the people, stressing that all necessary measures must be immediately taken to protect health and safeguard workers' rights. The KKE has already announced the postponement of all its events until Easter, as part of the public health prevention and protection measures. 
Recent government announcements on addressing the novel coronavirus epidemic seek to create the impression that the government is doing everything in its power to face an objective danger that has visible implications for the nation's health and the economy of the country. 
The truth is that the real danger stems from the tragic shortcomings of the health system that were known before the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. These shortcomings did not occur accidentally, they are not objective. They are the result of the anti-people's policy pursued by all governments, based on the EU directions for the commercialization and privatization of Health, to support the profitability of business groups and safeguard the surpluses. This policy cancels out, in practice, the great scientific and technological possibilities that exist today to meet all the needs of prevention and healthcare of the people. So, for example, today there are only 550 beds in the Intensive Care Units, while 3,500 were needed before the coronavirus outbreak. 
The pre-existing slowdown of the economy in the Eurozone and internationally is now furtherly reinforced by the spread of the novel coronavirus outbreaks and increases the risk of a new crisis in the coming period, especially in the Eurozone. 
The propaganda government campaign, which focuses almost exclusively on the individual responsibility of each citizen and calls for national unity to support government policy, obscures the real problem. Taking the necessary measures calls for opposition to the EU's commitments and policies to support the competitiveness of monopoly groups, which sacrifice the satisfaction of the people's needs at the altar of capitalist profitability. The people cannot and must not pay again! 
The recommendations of the National Public Health Agency impose the need for the government to immediately take all necessary measures to effectively address this pandemic and at the same time face all the  permanent healthcare needs which are non-relevant to it. 
1.  We demand here and now emergency measures to protect the health of our people, such as: 
- Recruitment of permanent medical and nursing staff to open all closed beds of the Intensive Care Units, but also to enable 24-hour operation of all Primary Health Care Units in order to relieve the congestion in hospitals. 
- Full equipment of all public services with the necessary disinfection and precaution supplies provided to the public by the state free of charge in order to stop any unacceptable profiteering. 
- Immediate re-opening of the hospitals closed by the ND - PASOK governments in 2013 (the Patissia Polyclinic, the General Hospital of West Attica, the Bombola ward, etc.). They must be immediately staffed, with permanent personel and not with staff transfers from other hospitals. 
- Any additional needs of hospitalization and medical practice to be also met by the requisition of Health infrastructure in the private sector. 
2.  The compulsory implementation of the necessary restrictive and preventive measures for the population prerequires corresponding measures to protect the income and rights of the workers themselves. The measures announced so far only support big capitalist enterprises while reserving a "quarantine" regime for workers' rights. At the same time, no essential family income protection measures for workers, freelancers and farmers are guaranteed in case they  get sick or stop their work due to family obligations. 
3.  The government's single "horizontal" approach on the arrangements regarding the taxation and insurance obligations of the business groups, the big capital, the self-employed and the employees will eventually be interpreted as new burdens on the people's shoulders. 
The workers, through their contributions to Social Security Organizations, have paid a lot in order to be able to have basic insurance and benefits in the event of such emergencies. They have paid and continue to pay through EOPYY (National Organization for the Provision of Healthcare Services) for their health, through OAED (Organization of Workforce Employment) and other contributions to EFKA (Single Organization for Social Insurance) to cover their income in cases of unemployment and temporary disability for work (illness, accident). 
To provide additional leave from work with full remuneration and Insurance: (a) To all workers who get sick in order to recover but also to prevent the spread of the disease (b) To a family member with a sick child or having no other option than taking care of a minor child himself/herself, or taking care of an elderly family member. 
Furthemore, the government is accountable not only for not announcing penalties and fines for employers who violate labor relations and working times but also for suspending the required controls: We demand here and now to tighten the controls by the Labor Inspectorate in sectors and workplaces, which must not become prisons in the midst of an epidemic. 
4.  In all cases, all necessary emergency financial support measures for workers and the popular strata must be taken in order to address the additional problems arising: 
- First of all, all auctions and forfeitures, all electricity and water cuts, any kind of compulsory enforcement measures to the State, banks and Public Companies and Organizations should be suspended, for as long as it takes, for all workers, pensioners and self-employed, with priority for those with an annual income of less than 12,000 euros. 
- Redundancies must be stopped. Unemployment benefits at 80% of the basic salary must be given here and now for seasonal workers who are not re-employed, such as in the sectors of tourism, transport, etc. 
A similar benefit should be given to freelancers, with annual incomes of up to € 12,000, who will be forced to close down their business. Moreover, workers of businesses suspending their operations should also receive an emergency allowance of € 715.68 for the next 45 days. 
- All pensioners should be given an immediate 13th pension as emergency  support.
- Specifically, for self-employed with annual income up to EUR 12,000:  
a) To be exempt from paying contributions for their insurance for the next 4 months without loss of their pension rights, b) To set a tax-free threshold of EUR 12,000 and non-payment of business tax to enable them to cope with the already increasing financial consequences. 
5.  Additional measures need to be taken in the field of Education to face with a state responsibility several problems arising from the necessary decision to close all educational structures. It is important to protect the children of the popular family from the consequences of the commercialization of education, which creates unequal conditions of access, which may be sharpened under these conditions. We therefore demand: 
- To take measures to ensure that pupils in the last grade of high school are equally prepared as expeditiously as possible for the national exams, even with a reduction in the school subjects' material.
- To solve all the problems related to student care, to continue  students' boarding by avoiding crowding (packaged food).
- To solve the problem of refunds for canceled school trips, both domestic and abroad, concerning thousands of families. 
We call on workers to take their destiny into their own hands and decisively demand from the government to immediately take all necessary measures to safeguard the health and the rights of the people.
Dimitris Koutsoumbas: We strengthen our voice to protect the health of all workers, all people

After communicating via video call with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, during the briefing of political leaders about the government's measures for Coronavirus outbreak, the General Secretary of the CC of the KKE Dimitris Koutsoumbas made the following statement:

"The KKE faces the public health adventure that the country and the world are going throughwith a high sense of responsibility.

We have already put forward proposals to shield - as far as possible - the public health system and its workers. These proposals concern the requisition of private clinics, the immediate integration of thousands of private doctorsinto the state planning, the need to decongest hospitals with 24-hour operation of Primary Care Units, the opening of ICUs, the immediate recruitment of thousands of healthcare workers.

We also put forward proposals to support workers, freelancers, self-employed who are affected by the impact on the economy and the necessary measures. Under no circumstances should workers'-people’s rights be quarantined.

I have repeated these proposals to the Prime Minister, Mr. Mitsotakis, today. I particularly emphasized the fact that the necessary individual responsibility in these difficult times should go hand in hand and, much more, should not substitute state responsibility.

Things would have been better if at least these past years hospitals and Primary Health Care units had not been shut down by all governments,as a result of the policy that sacrifices Health on the altar of "bloody" surpluses and treats it as a commodity. These units need to be reopened even now.

It has been tragicallyprovedthat social goods, such as the highest good of life and health, cannot be left to the mercy of profit, to the unaccountable market laws. It is characteristic that the current state cannot even provide the simple, minimum prevention and protection measures. It has to resort to various business groups, domestic and international, for medicines, masks, antiseptics, raw materials and more. Even in conditions of soaring prices and huge profiteering.

We may all say "we stay home", for self-protection, to protect our loved ones, all our fellow humans, but we cannot remain silent in the big gaps, the tragic shortages in Health. So, we are strengthening our voice for health protection measures for all workers, all the Greek people.