By Vassilis Triandafyllou
ATHENS, July 8 (Reuters) - 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 debt crisis.
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 said.
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 have said.
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.