enet.gr

Demonstrations over state job cuts

Thousands participate in protests in central Athens and other cities

Updated At:

Several thousand protesters, most wearing caps to shield themselves from the midsummer heat, joined a peaceful march to parliament, as the 24-hour walkout disrupted some domestic flights, some modes of public transport, state hospitals and other services

Tourists watch the anti-austerity demonstration, 16 July 2013 (AFP) Tourists watch the anti-austerity demonstration, 16 July 2013 (AFP) Unions opposing austerity measures staged their fourth general strike this year on Tuesday, as the government prepared to start axing public sector jobs.

Several thousand protesters, most wearing caps to shield themselves from the midsummer heat, joined a peaceful march to parliament, as the 24-hour walkout disrupted flights, public transport, state hospitals and other services. More demonstrations are planned later in the day, while local government offices remain closed for a second day.

"We urge MPs not to vote for the bill because it would be a tragic mistake," said Vasilis Polymeropoulos, a vice-president in public sector union federation Adedy. "It is tragic mistake against employees, local government, public administration and, especially, our dignity," he added.

"The dilemma facing MPs is whether to go along with the [troika] memorandums or with the people," said Nikos Kioutsoukis, general secretary of the GSEE union federation, which represents the private sector.

As protesters marched past parliament, a group of Syriza MPs unfurled a banner in front of parliament that said: "Dismiss the government: No to firings in the private and public sector."

Syriza MPs unfurl a banner from outside parliament (Photo: Stelios Stefanou, Eleftherotypia) Syriza MPs unfurl a banner from outside parliament (Photo: Stelios Stefanou, Eleftherotypia) Unions will commence an all-night rally and solidarity concert at Syntagma Square at 8.30pm. An attempt will be made to form a human chain around parliament.

"The government ... is using the bailouts as an excuse to get rid of any labour rights we have left," construction worker Kostas Lavretzos said earlier, during the main demonstration.

The public sector has so far been spared from the job cuts that have hit the rest of the Greek economy – and pushed unemployment up to 27% – since the country got its first international bailout loan in 2010.

However, the government has been forced to launch the cuts by the troika – 15,000 firings by the end of 2014 and 12,500 transfers this year – so it can continue receiving rescue loans from the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and Eurozone countries.

The bill, which was posted on the parliament's website, contains 109 articles including those detailing the transfer of civil servants, which has sparked widespread protests.

Parliament began a debate on the new measures before a vote expected late on Wednesday.

"It's a disgrace for the government to say that things are getting better with unemployment at such a high level ... It is clear that with the economy still shrinking that we need a change of course," Euclid Tsakalotos, an MP the main opposition party Syriza.

"The people running this country live in a different environment. They go to different hospitals. Their kids go to different schools. And they don't understand what people are going through."

The New Democracy-led government lost a junior coalition partner, Democratic Left, last month following a sudden decision to shut down state broadcaster ERT.

"The general strike is unlikely to succeed in its aim of forcing the government to withdraw its latest reform bill or convincing enough MPs to vote against it," said Martin Koehring, an analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit.

"(But it) once again demonstrates the strong anti-austerity sentiment among the population."
 

Send with e-mail Print Page

Read also

In category
News
With tags
Protest
Strikes