News / Economy

Thousands of Greeks Join Strike Against Public Sector Layoffs

Supporters of the Communist-affiliated trade union PAME take part in an anti-austerity rally during a 24-hour general strike, in Athens, July, 16, 2013.
Supporters of the Communist-affiliated trade union PAME take part in an anti-austerity rally during a 24-hour general strike, in Athens, July, 16, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— Tens of thousands of Greek workers walked off the job on Tuesday and rallied in front of parliament in a noisy protest against government plans to fire public sector employees in an effort to satisfy foreign lenders.

The 24-hour general strike against a new scheme to transfer or fire state workers comes a day before parliament votes on a series of reforms that must be passed before the European Union and International Monetary Fund can disburse more financial aid.

More than 30,000 demonstrators - including municipal police and teachers targeted in the layoff scheme - gathered in the central square before parliament, beating drums and blowing whistles in one of the biggest anti-austerity protests in Greece this year.

“It feels like Greece is dead and now the vultures are fighting over its corpse,” said Eleni Fotopoulou, 58, a retired teacher and mother of two. “I'm not angry anymore, I am disgusted. We have to fight back.”

Greeks are split over whether state workers, whose jobs are protected by the constitution, also should feel the pain of layoffs that have ravaged the private sector.

But virtually all agree that Greek society cannot handle any more spending cuts and tax hikes - a message the government will relay to Germany's finance minister, Europe's leading proponent of economic austerity, when he visits Athens later this week.

Outside parliament, protesters chanted “No more sacrifices” and waved banners that read “Fire the troika” in reference to the trio of European Commission, European Central Bank and IMF propping up Greece with over 200 billion euros in aid.

Domestic flights were disrupted after civil aviation unions staged a four-hour work stoppage and Athens's main tourist attraction - the Acropolis - was shut early.

City transport was also affected, with bus and trolley bus drives holding work stoppages in the morning and in the evening. Trains stopped running and tax offices and municipal services remained shut. Garbage collectors, bus drivers, bank employees and journalists were among other groups joining the walkout.

Outrage

Representing about 2.5 million workers, the two public and private sector unions ADEDY and GSEE that called the strike have brought workers to the streets repeatedly since Greece slid into a debt crisis in late 2009, though several protests have fizzled this year amid a growing sense of resignation.

Protesters are likely to be out in force again on Thursday for the visit of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble. Many Greeks blame Germany's insistence on austerity for their economic crisis and pictures lampooning Chancellor Angela Merkel as a latter-day Nazi, festooned with swastikas, are commonplace.

Greece's lenders, who have bailed it out twice with 240 billion euros worth of aid, are frustrated with the slow progress it has made in streamlining a 600,000-strong public sector widely seen as corrupt and inefficient.

After repeatedly missing deadlines, Athens in recent weeks has scrambled to put together a list of 12,500 workers slated for a “mobility pool” in which they are given eight months to find work in another department or get fired.

Some 25,000 workers will be placed in the scheme by the end of the year, sparking outrage at a time when unemployment stands at an all-time high of 27 percent.

The plan has turned into the latest headache for Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's fragile coalition government, which nearly collapsed last month after it abruptly shut the state broadcaster ERT and fired its 2,600 staff.

The debacle prompted a small leftist party to leave the government, leaving Samaras with a much smaller backing of 155 deputies in the 300-seat parliament. Still, that is expected to be enough to secure passage of the reforms bill on Wednesday.

Many saw the ERT closure as a move to pave the way for mass firings in the public sector.

“The policy of mass layoffs, the dismantling of public institutions responsible and the demolition of any notion of labor rights inaugurate a new undemocratic governance of the country,” the ADEDY public sector union said.

  • Municipal public school guard Yiorgos Avramidi is comforted by colleagues after the Greek parliament approved new austerity measures, Athens, July 17, 2013.
  • Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, left, and Greek Prime minister Antonis Samaras, second left, are congratulated by lawmakers after a parliament vote in Athens, July 18, 2013.
  • Demonstrators sit on a broken metal fence outside the Greek parliament during an anti-austerity protest in Athens, late July 17, 2013.
  • Protesters take part in a demonstration against public sector layoffs, which the government has promised its international lenders in exchange for bailout funds, in Athens, July 15, 2013.
  • A protester sits on the road in front of the Greek Parliament during a protest in Athens, July 16, 2013.
  • A protester holds a banner featuring a man hanging from a Euro logo as he marches to the Greek Parliament during a protest in Athens, July 16, 2013. 
  • An anti-austerity protester holds a Greek flag during a rally in Athens, July, 16, 2013.

You May Like

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7217
JPY
USD
102.17
GBP
USD
0.5949
CAD
USD
1.1009
INR
USD
60.326

Rates may not be current.