Greek health workers intensify protests for pay hike, more staff

Workers are demanding a significant pay rise to compensate for cuts in their real wages, made as part of structural adjustments as dictated by the European Troika

December 01, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Health workers hold a march to the Greek Parliament in Athens, on November 30. (Photo:

On Thursday, November 30, doctors and other health workers in Greece organized a major march to the Greek Parliament in Athens, demanding increased salaries, more recruitment, and more funds for the public health sector, among other things. Marches were also held in other cities across the country including Thessaloniki, Heraklion, Palamas, and others. 

The actions were organized on the second day of the 48-hour strikes called by various health workers’ movements like Federation of Hospital Doctors of Greece (OENGE) and the Panhellenic Federation of Public Hospital Workers (POEDIN). On Thursday, the health workers also demonstrated in front of the Ministry of Health, protesting the apathy of the conservative New Democracy-led government’s apathy towards the demands of the doctors and other health workers. 

For over a decade, the working class sections in Greece have been demanding a significant wage hike to compensate cuts in their real wages, made as part of the structural adjustments as dictated by the Troika – European Commission (EC), the European Central Bank (ECB), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – in the aftermath of the debt crisis nearly 10 years ago.

As a result of this, while the country has seen economic growth, workers have continued to suffer. According to the working class sections, the real wages of workers have actually declined by around 25% since 2007, and OENGE has accused that their salaries have been frozen for 15 years. Meanwhile, Greece spends 3.5% of its GDP on defense, the highest among all NATO members.

OENGE and other health workers’ unions highlighted several issues including the decade-long wage freeze, inflation and cost of living crisis, over work, shortage of staff, low pay for on-call duty, payment delays, abolition of holiday allowances and library allowance, and changes in the calculation of seniority and the hourly wages for on-call duty.

While addressing the mobilization in Athens, Afroditi Reggiou, president of OENGE, said: “We will not allow any clinic and department to be shut down. The recruitment for the years 2022-2024 is 408 employees, while we have more than 30,000 vacancies.”

In their call for the strike, the demands raised by OENGE include doubling of salaries, tax-free additional on-call duty, increased recruitment of staff with simultaneous announcements for all vacancies, cessation of dismissal for extension trainees, and an end to mergers and closures of health facilities. Additionally, they are calling for an increase in state funding for the public health system.

As they mobilized across the country, the Greek health workers have also condemned the genocidal war carried out by Israel in Gaza and expressed solidarity with health workers there who continue to deliver their duty with limited resources braving the deadly bombardment. The mobilization in Athens was attended by a delegation from the General Union of Palestinian Workers.

On December 1, Zoi Parcharidi from the People’s Health Movement in Greece told Peoples Dispatch that “PHM-Greece endorsed the mobilization, joined the strike, and called for a strong public health system consisting of healthcare workers with permanent full-time contracts, increased salaries, and the doubling of health care personnel through immediate recruitments.”

Various groups including the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the All Workers’ Militant Front (PAME), and the Federation of Women of Greece (OGE) extended their support to the health workers’ strike.