December 19, 2012 / 11:18 AM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 2-Greek public sector workers strike over reforms

4 Min Read

* Public sector workers stage 24-hour strike against EU/IMF
    * Walkout disrupts transport, public services
    * About 3,000 march to ministry overseeing public sector
reform, layoffs

    By Renee Maltezou
    ATHENS, Dec 19 (Reuters) - Greek public sector workers
walked off the job on Wednesday in protest at new austerity
measures and layoffs demanded by foreign lenders, disrupting
transport and shutting public schools and tax offices.
    The 24-hour strike is the latest in a series of protests
since September against a package of wage cuts and tax hikes
demanded by Greece's European Union and IMF lenders as the price
of bailout loans to keep the country afloat.
    About 6,000 teachers, doctors, municipal and transport
workers rallied in central Athens as part of the walkout called
by the ADEDY union, which represents half a million public
sector workers - roughly a quarter of the country's workforce.
    The demonstrators marched to the ministry overseeing public
sector reform chanting "They won't stop unless we stop them" and
held banners reading "Kick them out!", but the turnout was much
smaller than for previous protests this year.  
    "We want to tell the government enough is enough! Enough
with layoffs, wage and pension cuts, the collapse of the public
sector, enough with these tax hikes," said ADEDY's Despina
Spanou. "People are fed up and will show their rage."
    The latest measures - which include earmarking 27,000 civil
servants for eventual dismissal - are deeply unpopular among
Greeks who say society is crumbling under the weight of repeated
spending cuts and tax hikes that punish the middle class.
    But the rallies have lost some of their momentum since the
austerity package was approved and Athens received long-delayed
funds from its foreign lenders, averting the risk of bankruptcy
that had hung over the cash-strapped country for months.
    Unions also say that some Greeks, although fed up with
austerity, could no longer afford to lose a day's wages by
taking part in strikes.
    Greece's other major union, the private sector union GSEE,
held a three-hour stoppage in solidarity and joined the march
through the streets of central Athens. The Communist-affiliated
PAME group also held a separate rally.
    State hospitals operated on skeleton staff, some domestic
flights were grounded and about 100 workers occupied the offices
of Athens' city train company in protest at planned wage cuts. 
    Train workers also started a 48-hour strike against the
conservative-led coalition's plans to privatise Greece's
national railways. Metro and tram workers walked out for a few
hours on Wednesday and plan a 24-hour strike on Thursday. 
    Police deployed about 2,000 officers in central Athens, but
there were no reports of the violence or clashes that have come
to mark many protests in the Greek capital.
    Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's government has implored
Greeks to endure the cuts, and promised they will be the last.
But that has convinced few in a nation where unemployment tops
26 percent and poverty levels have soared.
    A survey by polling group MARC showed that more than 65
percent of Greeks expect conditions in the country to worsen in
2013, while half of those polled said they had a negative
opinion of the ruling coalition. 
    If elections were held now, the opposition leftist Syriza
party would win with 28.5 percent of the vote, the poll showed.
    "We, the unemployed, will never see the bailout funds in our
pockets," said Stavroula Kandelanou, 34, a mother of two who is
jobless. "They keep talking about growth but I don't see any."

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