Greece gripped by new public sector strike against austerity

Greece gripped by new public sector strike against austerity
# 19 December 2012 22:43 (UTC +04:00)

Baku-APA. Greece was gripped by a fresh 24-hour strike in the public sector on Wednesday, as demonstrators protested against painful austerity and reform programs aimed to pull the country from the brink of a default, APA reports quoting Xinhua.

Thousands of civil servants, including municipal workers and teachers to bus drivers and air flight controllers, took to the streets of central Athens in participation of the mobilization organized by their umbrella trade union ADEDY.

Strikers denounced a planned fresh round of cuts on salaries and pensions, starting as of Jan. 1, a new tax bill which introduces additional burden on the average household and a labor reserve scheme promoted to reduce the number of employees in the public sector.

Under the labor reserve plan, about 25,000 civil servants will be suspended for a year on reduced wages until they will be transferred to other merging organizations or be dismissed.

"Place the government in labor reserve instead. Erase Greek sovereign debt," they chanted, marching to the parliament building, as flights were grounded and public hospitals ran on skeleton personnel.

ADEDY strikers were joined by members of the private sector union GSEE, which had called a three-hour work stoppage, while Communist-affiliated PAME group staged a separate protest rally.

"This is our response to government policies which lead us to poverty," Despina Spanou, ADEDY's vice president told Xinhua.

"Cutbacks on salaries, pensions, new unbearable taxes, layoffs, the labor reserve scheme, the collapse of public services and the welfare state. All these are elements of a government policy which destroys society. We reply to this policy with mobilizations today and in coming days," she said.

As the country heads for the sixth year of deep recession after almost three years of steep austerity, the conservative-led three-party coalition government appears determined to meet goals set by European Union and International Monetary Fund creditors to unlock further vital financing that has so far kept the country afloat.

Without the bailout aid packages, Greece would face the prospect of a disorderly default and potential exit from euro, which could trigger a domino effect across eurozone and global economy.

But protesters on the streets of Athens have repeatedly claimed over the past three years that there were always alternative ways to address the problems and promote social justice. They support transferring the burden to the wealthy and the corrupted who are responsible for the crisis.

"Our path is different from the one the government suggests. They should resign and we should go to polls again. They made different promises; they implement different policies and unconstitutional measures," Konstantinos Stamatis, employee at the Regional Government of Attica prefecture, told Xinhua on Syntagma square.

Six months after the last general elections which resulted in a pro-reform government, recent opinion polls showed that despite positive signs from lenders, most Greeks are still frustrated with the policy mix imposed and reject further austerity.

Commuters in Athens are set to face further transport disruptions on Thursday, as the unions of mass transport services hold a 48-hour strike. Other unions will examine their next steps in the coming weeks.

"We will continue after the holidays with one target: to overthrow these policies and those who implement them," Spanou told Xinhua.