News / Economy

Protests Mount Ahead of Greek Parliament Layoffs Vote

Demonstrators protest in front of parliament, Athens, July 17, 2013.
Demonstrators protest in front of parliament, Athens, July 17, 2013.
Reuters
Thousands of Greek workers chanting anti-austerity slogans flocked outside parliament on Wednesday, hours before lawmakers inside vote on a divisive reform bill that would cut thousands of public sector jobs.
 
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's government is expected to scrape through the vote, despite a much-slimmer majority of only five seats in parliament after losing an ally over the decision to yank the state broadcaster off air and fire its 2,600 staff.
 
The multi-pronged bill — whose passage is a condition for Greece to unlock further aid — includes plans for a public sector transfer and layoff scheme mainly affecting teachers and municipal police.
 
About 5,000 Greeks flooded the street outside parliament, some chanting: "We will not succumb, the only option is to resist" and waving orange flags — though turnout was much smaller than in protests last year.
 
"After 12 years on the job, they fire us in one night," Patra Hatziharalampous, a 52-year-old school guard in uniform said between sobs. "If they have any guts, they should say no to the bailout and take some of the bill's articles back."
 
Hours before the vote, Samaras announced Greece's first tax cut since its crisis began nearly four years ago, in a bid to placate protests and an increasingly restive public mood.
 
"Despite the difficulties, important and significant things are taking place in our country," Samaras said in a surprise television address, announcing that value-added tax (VAT) in restaurants, which was raised to 23 percent in 2011, would be cut to 13 percent from Aug. 1.
 
"We will not relax. We will continue climbing up the hill, we will reach the top, which is not far, and better days will come for our people," he said.
 
The government had made a show of arguing for the restaurant VAT cut during its latest talks with lenders, and analysts said the move was a symbolic attempt to show austerity-hit Greeks that there was light at the end of the tunnel.
 
Samaras said the cut would help curb tax evasion, a major problem in the country and one of the reasons it slid into a debt crisis in 2009, but warned that if tax evasion persisted the VAT would revert to 23 percent.
 
"The crucial thing is that it was announced now and not after the summer," said Thomas Gerakis, head of Marc Pollsters. "How it will benefit consumers remains to be seen."
 
'Drawing blood'
 
Athens has been limping along on two bailouts worth over 240 billion euros ($315 billion) since 2010, which it has secured at the price of wage cuts and tax rises that have triggered a six-year recession and sent unemployment to 27 percent.
 
The latest bill, which agreed with European Union and International Monetary Fund lenders as a condition for nearly seven billion euros ($9.20 billion) in aid, also includes a luxury tax on houses with swimming pools and owners of high-performance cars.
 
But the move that has drawn the most anger is the plan to place 25,000 workers into the layoff scheme by the end of 2013, giving them eight months to find another position or get laid off. Jobs in the public sector are widely seen as oversized, inefficient and filled with patronage hires, but many Greeks believe society can no longer tolerate labor cuts or tax hikes.
 
A striking municipal police officer reacts as he leans on a car with a Greek flag during a protest, against new austerity cuts that will affect thousands of public sector workers, in Athens, July 12, 2013.A striking municipal police officer reacts as he leans on a car with a Greek flag during a protest, against new austerity cuts that will affect thousands of public sector workers, in Athens, July 12, 2013.
x
A striking municipal police officer reacts as he leans on a car with a Greek flag during a protest, against new austerity cuts that will affect thousands of public sector workers, in Athens, July 12, 2013.
A striking municipal police officer reacts as he leans on a car with a Greek flag during a protest, against new austerity cuts that will affect thousands of public sector workers, in Athens, July 12, 2013.
Uniformed municipal police, garbage collectors in orange vests and hundreds of other public sector workers have taken to the streets of Athens almost daily on motorbikes in over a week of rallies, blowing whistles, honking horns and blaring sirens.
 
"You are drawing blood from an organism suffering from anemia," George Varemenos, a lawmaker from the radical leftist opposition Syriza party told a parliamentary session.
 
"People will be running to the shelters whenever you mention the word reform."

You May Like

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8982
JPY
USD
121.07
GBP
USD
0.6376
CAD
USD
1.2215
INR
USD
63.612

Rates may not be current.