May 20, 2010 / 12:54 PM / 10 years ago

Factbox: Economic storm pounding euro zone stirs protests

(Reuters) - Here are some details of protests in euro zone countries whose economies are facing severe stress over high debt levels and repayments.

* GREECE

— Thousands of striking Greeks marched on parliament on Thursday in a test of the government’s resolve to carry out tough austerity measures demanded by the EU and IMF to drag Greece out of its debt crisis.

— The strike was called by unions representing 2.5 million workers, half the Greek workforce, who want the government to withdraw “pain for gain” austerity measures agreed with the EU and IMF in return for a 110 billion-euro ($137 billion) emergency aid package. — Greece has announced 4.8 billion euros ($6.5 billion) in wage cuts, a pension freeze and tax hikes to tackle its huge fiscal deficit and 300 billion euro ($408 billion) debt pile.

— Public sector workers staged a 48-hour nationwide strike on May 4-5. On May 5, a 50,000-strong protest in Athens led to violence. Hundreds of Greeks fought with police and three people were killed in a petrol bomb attack on a local bank.

— On May 1, thousands of people marched through Athens to protest against austerity measures they said only hurt the poor.

— On April 26 striking dockers and protesters at Greece’s largest ports blocked hundreds of tourists from returning to their ships.

— Greek public and private sector workers went on strike on March 11, grounding flights, shutting schools and halting public transport in the second nationwide walkout in a fortnight in protest against the austerity plans.

* PORTUGAL - Union leaders have pledged to step up protests against the government’s austerity package. Prime Minister Jose Socrates and opposition leader Pedro Passos Coelho have drawn up steps to slash Portugal’s deficit, including 5 percent pay cuts for senior public sector staff and politicians. The deficit, which stood at 9.4 percent in 2009, is to fall to 7.3 percent of GDP in 2010 and 4.6 percent in 2011 under the plan.

* SLOVENIA - Thousands of students flooded the capital Ljubljana on Wednesday to protest against government plans to curtail their benefits as part of a wider austerity package.

— The government of the euro zone member plans to limit students’ right to work, reduce state scholarships and lower state spending on student meals as part of its plans to reduce a big budget deficit.

* SPAIN - Spanish unions vowed on Thursday to fight austerity measures in the courts as the Socialist government said it would introduce a contentious cut in public sector wages through a royal decree, bypassing parliament.

— The UGT union, which was already planning a public sector strike on June 8, said it would contest the legality of such wage cuts at the center of plans for budget reductions of 15 billion euros ($18.62 billion) announced last week.

— The Socialist government has said it would make some 50 billion euros ($67.56 billion) of savings to 2013 to cut its public deficit from 11.4 percent of GDP in 2009 to 3 percent of GDP, in line with European Union guidelines.

— The government’s plans to halt pension increases in 2011 was a breach of a previously agreed pension pact, according to Spain’s biggest union Comisiones Obreras. The leader of sister union Union General de Trabajadores (UGT) said the austerity plan was devastating for growth and would increase unemployment.

Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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