ATHENS — Thousands of Greek municipal workers and state school teachers took to the streets of Athens on Monday to protest against the public sector layoffs that the government has promised its international lenders in exchange for bailout funds.
Euro zone finance ministers were due to decide on Monday how to keep Greece afloat and had threatened to delay the latest 8.1 billion euro payment to Athens to put more pressure on it to enact unpopular reforms.
More than 6,000 local administration workers, among them guards and uniformed municipal police on motorbikes, marched to the Administrative Reform Ministry in central Athens, waving black flags, honking horns and sounding sirens.
“Take your memorandum and get out of here!” the workers chanted, in the first protest since the lenders completed their latest review of Greece's cost cutting efforts on Sunday, a sign of the resistance the government may face.
“They won't succeed - we will fight it,” said POE-OTA, the federation of local government unions, which held a 24-hour nationwide strike. The largest public sector union ADEDY also staged a work stoppage in Athens.
Greece has struggled to convince the “troika” of lenders from the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund that it can deliver on its pledges and shrink its spendthrift public sector, widely blamed by many Greeks for the debt crisis.
Public sector layoffs are a taboo in Greece, where a sixth year of recession has made one in four jobless and eroded living standards.
After missing a June deadline, Athens agreed to put 12,500 state workers into a “mobility scheme” by September, meaning they will be transferred or fired within a year. Around 3,500 of those will be municipal workers and another 2,000 will be teachers, government officials have said.
A second wave of 12,500 staff will be placed in the scheme by the end of the year. The government has also promised to fire 4,000 state workers this year.