ATHENS, Oct 16 (Reuters) - Greece’s largest public sector union will stage a 24-hour walkout on November 14 to demand wage and pension increases, hirings and tax cuts, the first major strike since the country exited its bailout programme in August.
Greeks have endured years of punishing austerity including tax hikes and deep spending cuts in return for international loans since its debt crisis erupted in 2009.
The left-led government, which faces elections next year, has promised to keep tight control of public finances after the end of the bailout, raising the stakes in its standoff with the ADEDY labour union that has organised the strike.
“Now that we’ve become a normal country with a normal government which is no longer supervised by foreign powers, now is the time to try to solve some of the problems created in the past eight years,” ADEDY president Yannis Paidas told Reuters.
“Public sector workers want their dignity back, we need to recoup some of our losses.”
ADEDY represents about half a million workers but turnout in protests has been low in recent years.
Even though the bailout has ended, Greece will be loath to go on a spending spree any time soon - it still has to generate high budget surpluses under a post-bailout surveilance plan agreed with the European Union and International Monetary Fund.
The strike will also be against privatisations and the evaluation process of public sector workers, ADEDY said.
Greece’s private sector union GSEE is also mulling a strike but has not yet decided on a possible date.
The economy shrank by about a quarter during the eight-year crisis. It has now returned to growth and the jobless rate has dropped to 19 percent from a record high of nearly 28 percent in 2013, but is still the highest in the euro zone.
The government, which signed up to a new bailout in 2015 despite pre-election promises to end austerity, has pledged to protect workers and pensioners from any further cuts, but without derailing the country’s fiscal performance.
It submitted its first post-bailout budget to parliament this month pending approval by its lenders. (Reporting by Renee Maltezou Editing by Gareth Jones)