* Austerity, labour reform bill go to parliament on Monday
* Measures expected to pass in tight Wednesday vote
* Budget vote, also needed for new aid, expected Sunday
* Unions to protest measures, govt popularity falls
By George Georgiopoulos and Michael Winfrey
ATHENS, Nov 5 Greece's government will present a
new austerity package to parliament on Monday, facing a week of
strikes and protests over proposals which must win deputies'
approval if the country is to secure more aid and stave off
Parliament is expected to vote on Prime Minister Antonis
Samaras' package of 13.5 billion euros ($17 billion) in cost
cuts and tax hikes on Wednesday along with measures making it
easier for firms to hire and fire workers.
Despite public exasperation at four years of belt-tightening
that has helped wipe out a fifth of the economy and leave a
quarter of Greeks jobless, the package and a tough budget slated
for a vote on Sunday are expected to scrape through parliament.
Greece's powerful main public and private sector unions will
launch a 48 hour strike against the legislation on Tuesday and
plan marches in Athens' city centre. Journalists, doctors,
transport workers and shopkeepers are also planning stoppages.
Approval of the reforms and the passage of the 2013 budget
are crucial to unlocking 31.5 billion euros in aid from an
International Monetary Fund and European Union bailout that has
been on hold since May.
"These will be the last cuts in wages and pensions," Samaras
said on Sunday in a speech aimed at galvanizing the members of
his New Democracy party.
"We promised to avert the country's exit from the euro and
this is what we are doing. We have given absolute priority to
this because if we do not achieve this everything else will be
Union leaders say the measures will simply deepen a
recession that is expected to run into next year.
"Our labour action next week will be part of efforts to
avert policies that will sink the country deeper into recession
and destroy the fabric of society," Yannis Panagopoulos, head of
GSEE private sector umbrella union, told Reuters.
The protests will ratchet up pressure on coalition deputies
whose parties have slid in opinion polls since a June election
in the Mediterranean country of 10 million.
On Friday, a poll showed New Democracy's support had fallen
to 22 percent, from 30 percent in the election. Its Socialist
PASOK partners had fallen to 7 percent, down from 12.3 percent
according to the PULSE survey.
"I want this government out. They should go to hell," said
Vassiliki Trimopoulou, a 60-year-old woman who has just retired
under a state redundancy plan. "This is certainly not the last
package. But I hope this will be the last thing they decide on."
The smallest coalition member, the Democratic Left, has
pledged to oppose the plans to cut wages, reduce severance
payments and scrap automatic wage hikes, saying they will
devastate workers who have borne the brunt of the crisis.
PASOK is struggling to shore up support for the measures
after one of its deputies quit on Thursday in the wake of a
narrow victory in pushing through a privatisation bill also
demanded by the lenders, cutting PASOK's numbers to 32 MPs.
Five of those have said they may oppose the reforms. But
even without them, New Democracy and PASOK's remaining members
are expected to muster at least 154 of Parliament's 300 votes.
"We will not step back now that we are in the final phase,"
PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos told journalists on Sunday.
The "troika" of the IMF, European Commission and European
Central Bank have agreed to extend a deadline for Greece to
achieve a primary budget surplus of 4.5 percent, a measure of
public finances minus debt maintenance costs.
That should give the battered economy breathing room, but on
Wednesday, the government said it would shrink more than
forecast in 2013 and debt would peak at 192 percent of GDP in
2014, 10 percentage points higher than earlier forecast.
That has increased the prospect of another round of debt
restructuring, a source of conflict between the IMF and Greece's
biggest EU creditor Germany who both privately say Athens' debt
trajectory is unsustainable.