* Public transport to be severely disrupted
* Strike to coincide with key parliamentary vote
* Anger, resignation on streets of Athens
By Karolina Tagaris
ATHENS, Nov 6 Greek workers begin a 48-hour
strike on Tuesday to protest against a new round of austerity
cuts that unions say will devastate the poor and drive a failing
economy to collapse.
The walkout, called by Greece's two biggest labour
organisations, is the third major strike in two months against a
package of spending cuts and reforms that Prime Minister Antonis
Samaras's government is trying to push through parliament to
Athens needs parliamentary approval for the package - which
includes slashing pensions by as much as a quarter for some and
scrapping holiday bonuses - to ensure its European Union and
International Monetary Fund lenders release more than 31 billion
euros ($40 billion) of aid, much of it aimed at shoring up
The government has implored Greeks to endure the cuts in a
bid to avoid national bankruptcy and insists they will be the
last round of pain. But few are impressed in a nation where over
a quarter are jobless while poverty and suicide levels soar.
"They should go to hell and beyond," said Anais
Metaxopoulou, a 65-year-old pensioner, expressing the anger many
Greeks feel towards their political class.
"They should ask me how I feel when I have to go to church
to beg for food. I wouldn't hurt a fly but I would happily
behead one of them."
The strike is timed to coincide with a crucial vote on
Wednesday, when the government is expected to just about win
backing for austerity cuts and labour reforms that the smallest
party in Samaras's coalition has refused to back.
SENDING A MESSAGE
"We are striking on Tuesday and Wednesday to send a message
to the government - these measures must not pass!" said Nikos
Kioutsoukis, general secretary of the GSEE private sector union
that called the strike along with the ADEDY public sector union.
"It's unacceptable that the people have to pay for the funds
bankers are getting from the state."
Transport is expected to be severely disrupted across the
country as trains, buses and the subway come to a halt. Many
flights have been cancelled, ships will remain tied up at ports
and taxi drivers plan to stay off the streets.
Schools, banks and local government offices will be shut,
while hospitals are expected to work on emergency staffing.
Police were beefing up security for midday rallies in Athens
that often culminate in a small-scale rioting and clashes with
hooded protesters, but officials said violence was more likely
during the parliamentary vote on Wednesday.
Greece has gone through several rounds of austerity that has
helped shrink its economy by a fifth since the debt crisis
exploded but failed to bring its finances back in order.
The country's public debt is seen at a whopping 189 percent
of gross domestic product next year and Athens is expected to be
widely off track from targets under its latest bailout agreed
with the troika of the IMF, the European Commission and the
European Central Bank.
Anger has given away to a sense of resignation for many
Greeks, who warn the latest cuts could tear a beleaguered
"I don't understand this fixation by the troika to press for
more cuts and austerity when unemployment is already at 25
percent. How can they insist when the economy is in free fall?"
said Nikos Maniatis, a 43-year-old electrician.
"They are fooling themselves if they think a social
explosion here would not lead to domino effects in Europe."