‘We Won't Pay’: Greek activists reconnect power to poverty-stricken homes
Tough austerity measures have left many people in Greece unable
to pay their electricity bills. The ‘We Don't Pay’ movement which
has over 10,000 members helps many of those by illegally
reconnecting power to their homes, despite legal action against
The movement has been gaining new support, despite being targeted
by over a hundred law suits. The government warns refusal to pay
fees and taxes will only starve Greece of money it needs to get
out of debt.
Members of the ‘We Don't Pay’ movement demand alternatives to the
austerity measures that, as many argue, have deepened the
recession and made unemployment unbearable.
“The vast majority of the public is sunk into poverty, and a
few families across the world have 99 percent of the wealth.
That's not something we want to bear, that's something we want to
overthrow here in Greece and across the world,” Ilias
Papadopoulos from the ‘We Don't Pay’ movement told RT in Athens.
Members the group, that began in a village of 3,000 people,
reconnect electricity to homes and disconnect power from road
tolls, making them free for motorists. Sometimes they also target
the Athens metro system.
In 2011 the supporters refused to pay highway tolls and rode
buses and the metro in Athens without tickets in protest against
an “unfair” 40 per cent increase in fares.
Many in the country are unable to pay for Greece’s state-run
electricity. With one in four Greeks currently unemployed,
Christina is not the only person to have their electricity cut
off two years ago.
“As the bills began piling up, I had to make my priorities -
and this is where food comes first. I want to pay the bills and I
want to be ok with the state, but the state hasn't been ok with
us,” she told RT’s Egor Piskunov.
Greek incomes have been severely squeezed, cut by about 30
percent on average since the crisis started in 2009.
Greece's unemployment rate has tripled since 2009, as hundreds of
thousands lost their jobs or businesses. Up to a thousand Greeks
have been laid off daily, according to the ELSTAT statistics
Unemployment rose to nearly 27 percent in April, the highest
reading since ELSTAT began publishing jobless data in 2006. It’s
more than twice the average rate in the euro zone, which hit 12.2
percent in May.
In July Greece unlocked 5.8 billion euros ($7.7 billion) of
bailout funds in European aid by putting 25,000 public sector
workers on reduced wages by the end of the year. The move sparked
a new wave of anti-austerity protests in Athens.
Many say the ‘We Won't Pay’ movement is likely to go on, because
it has a strong legitimacy in the eyes of the people.
“We must violate or not respect a law which says thousands of
people will have no electricity to cook, no electricity to see
water, to see TV, no electricity, to switch on AC,” an
economist from Varna Free University of Cyprus, Leonidas
Vatikiotis, told RT.
Bailout money for Greece, which has already received about 90
percent of the 240 billion euros earmarked to protect it from
default and possible exit from the euro zone, will run out at the
end of next year. According to experts, the country is likely to
need further relief to make its debt sustainable.