ATHENS Nov 22 Greek municipal workers occupied
hundreds of town halls across the country for a fifth day on
Thursday to protest against public sector layoffs demanded by
European Union and International Monetary Fund lenders.
Greece has promised the lenders it will revamp its bloated
public sector by putting as many as 27,000 workers into a layoff
scheme. City and local workers are expected to be among the
first to be laid off under the plan.
Their protests have intensified since the Greek government
passed a package of austerity measures earlier this month, with
workers this week staging daily sit-ins at more than two thirds
of the country's 330 city halls and several ministries.
The sit-ins and work stoppages have disrupted public
services and left garbage piling up in some districts of Athens.
About 3,000 municipal workers marched in central Athens on
Thursday chanting "Their measures - our funeral" and holding
black balloons. They carried a coffin and three wreaths in a
symbolic protest against what they called the "the elimination
of the public sector".
"They think of us as numbers and not as people. I am afraid
I won't be able to support my family and give my five-year-old
child all I should as a mother," Maria Kavvadia, who has been
working for the Athens municipality for 12 years, told state TV.
More than 40,000 clerks, nursery school teachers, gardeners,
garbage collectors, policemen and grave diggers are employed in
municipalities across the country.
Anger has been rising among Greeks over repeated rounds of
austerity measures including wage and pension cuts demanded by
lenders as the price for aid to avert bankruptcy.
The European commissioner for economic affairs, Olli Rehn,
said on Thursday Greece had taken all the steps necessary to
secure its next tranche of aid and euro zone finance ministers
should be able to sign off definitively on the assistance on
Data released on Thursday showed household disposable income
shrank by about 14 percent in the second quarter from the same
period in 2011 as wages dropped by 15 percent and taxes soared
by 37 percent.
Ministry employees have also held similar protests, blocking
the entrance of the agriculture ministry daily since last week.
Dozens of health ministry employees protesting against the
firing of 68 employees occupied the ministry on Monday.
A week ago, municipal workers stormed a building where Greek
and German officials were meeting in the northern city of
Thessaloniki and pelted a German diplomat with water bottles.
Many municipalities and public sector departments have also
refused to submit lists to the government with the names of
employees earmarked for possible dismissal under the layoff
"We won't give them the lists no matter what," said Vassilis
Polymeropoulos, the head of the Athens municipal workers' union.
"We are determined to continue our protests."