By Vassilis Triandafyllou
ATHENS, July 8 Thousands of Greek municipal
workers and school teachers took to the streets of Athens on
Monday in a noisy protest against public sector layoffs the
government has promised its international lenders in exchange
for bailout funds.
Euro zone finance ministers were due to decide on Monday how
to keep Greece afloat and had threatened to delay the latest
8.1-billion-euro ($10.42-billion) payment to Athens to put more
pressure on it to enact unpopular reforms.
More than 6,000 local administration workers, among them
guards and uniformed municipal police on motorbikes, marched to
the Administrative Reform Ministry in central Athens, waving
black flags, honking horns and sounding sirens.
"Take your memorandum and get out of here!" the workers
chanted, in the first protest since the lenders completed their
latest review of Greece's cost cutting efforts on Sunday, a sign
of the resistance the government may face.
Hundreds more rallied outside the Interior Ministry later on
Monday, where the administrative and interior ministers were
meeting with local government representatives, chanting
"Thieves" and "Traitors".
The head of the POE-OTA union, Themis Balasopoulos, broke
the news to workers that school guards would be placed in a
"mobility scheme" by the end of summer - meaning they will be
transferred or fired within a year - prompting some workers to
break into tears.
"It's not fair," said Georgia Martaki, a state school guard.
"I pay my rent, my electricity and phone bills only because I
have this job. It's not fair to fire a 50-year-old woman like
me, to throw me in the rubbish."
The largest public sector union, ADEDY, also staged a work
stoppage in Athens. Municipal workers planned another 24-hour
nationwide strike on Tuesday.
Greece has struggled to convince the "troika" of lenders
from the European Union, European Central Bank and International
Monetary Fund that it can deliver on its pledges and shrink its
spendthrift public sector, widely blamed by many Greeks for the
Public sector layoffs are a taboo in Greece, where a sixth
year of recession has made one in four people in the workforce
jobless and eroded living standards.
With tempers boiling over the plans to put municipal workers
in the mobility pool, five workers attacked Athens Mayor George
Kaminis on Sunday, pushing him and throwing punches, police
TV footage showed Kaminis running away from a group of
protesters who pelted him with a water bottle before being
driven away on a motorbike by one of his security guards.
After missing a June deadline, Athens agreed to put 12,500
state workers into a the mobility pool by September. Around
3,500 of those will be municipal workers, government officials
A second wave of 12,500 staff will be placed in the scheme
by the end of the year while the government has also promised to
fire 4,000 state workers this year.