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Greeks strike over job cuts, corruption

Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - 02:13

July 16 - From garbage collectors to bank workers, tens of thousands of Greeks walked off their jobs on Tuesday and rallied in front of parliament to protest against government plans to cut public sector jobs. The strike came just hours after parliament voted to press charges against a former Greek finance minister in a scandal over a list of potential tax evaders. Joanna Partridge reports.

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Protests gather pace in Greece. A week of walkouts from city workers culminated in a rally outside parliament - rubbish collectors, bus drivers and bank employees demonstrated against government plans to fire thousands of public sector workers. Athens has to reduce its civil service in order to receive more bailout funds from its international lenders and parliament is due to vote on the reforms. SOUNDBITE: Ilias Staikos, Jeweller, saying (Greek): "I understand that the strike is harmful, but when there's no dialogue, when there is no discussion, when all of a sudden the minister decides to play smart and take decisions and give orders it is only natural to have a strike. This is not the way to make reforms. They need a plan." The latest round of cuts has provoked uproar from Greeks, who are already struggling with an unemployment rate of 27%. There's also a lot of anger about the perceived corruption of the political classes. Greece's parliament voted on Tuesday to press criminal charges against a former Finance Minister in a scandal over a list of potential tax evaders. George Papaconstantinou is accused of tampering with the list, after three of his relatives were deleted from it. He denies the accusations. SOUNDBITE: GEORGE PAPACONSTANTINOU, FORMER FINANCE MINISTER, SAYING (Greek): "I am not to blame for all this country's ills. It is not just unfair to try to pin the sins of previous governments from both parties on me - it is something more than that. It is dishonorable." There will now be a new probe into the case and Papaconstantinou could be sent to prison if found guilty. But Greek ministers can only be prosecuted if parliament lifts their immunity. It all adds to the instability in Greece and other struggling euro zone countries, says Jan Lambregts from Rabobank. SOUNDBITE: Jan Lambregts, Global Head of Financial Markets Research, Rabobank, saying (English): "If you do look at these countries, the difficult process they're going through, we can't be too relaxed, you have to keep a close eye on this as these things can escalate, as whole generations are in trouble and are looking at a very tough future indeed." Greece may well be rocked by protests again on Thursday - when German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble visits Athens. Many blame Germany for the tough austerity policies which have led to the wage cuts and joblessness.

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Greeks strike over job cuts, corruption

Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - 02:13