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.
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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened 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.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7768
JPY
USD
108.84
GBP
USD
0.6124
CAD
USD
1.0999
INR
USD
61.042

Rates may not be current.