Greeks rally against austerity measures as public sector shut down in 24-hour strikes

08:57, April 23, 2010      

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Greece was hit by a new series of strikes and demonstrations on Thursday, as labor unions organized a 24-hour walk out of public sector services and marches against austerity measures across the country.

As the Greek government holds a new round of talks with EU and IMF officials who visit Athens from Wednesday on the final terms of a possible financial aid package for the Greek economy, thousands of Greek citizens went out on the streets of Athens and major cities to protest cutbacks on salaries, raises in taxes and reforms in the pension system.

At least 10,000 protesters, according to police estimations, took part in two separate rallies that ended in front of the parliament in the center of Athens on Thursday, as Eurostat announced that the Greek public deficit for 2009 stood at 13.6 percent of GDP, much higher than estimated.

The marches were organized by the umbrella union of public servants ADEDY and labor unions close to the two Left parties represented in parliament.

Local analysts noted that the size of the demonstration was smaller than similar protests held in Greece over the past three months, as more and more people seem to realize that sacrifices will have to be made eventually so as the country will put its finances in order and leave behind the crisis.

Holding banners with slogans against the Greek Stability and Growth Program, the government, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, and chanting similar slogans such as "Take the measures back" or "Thieves get out" and "We will not pay for the crisis others caused," the protesters withdrew after around four hours.

There were no violent clashes between police and anarchists who usually cause trouble during massive protests in Athens, but only minor incidents with scuffles that ended with teargas in front of the Finance Ministry at Syntagma square opposite to the parliament.

Similar scenes were reported in the northern city of Thessaloniki where two protesters were slightly injured in clashes with riot police.

Despite comparatively small participation in the rallies, employees took part in massive numbers in the 24-hour strike in the public sector nationwide, as the head of ADEDY Spyros Papaspyros stressed, warning for more strikes and demonstrations in the following weeks.

"It is a lie that there is only one way to face the crisis. We should stop the cutbacks on employees' rights and fight against the future IMF holds for us," Papaspyros said, addressing the rally, while schools and universities remained closed and ministries and public hospitals run with emergency personnel.

Denouncing the involvement of IMF in the process of granting a loan to Greece, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Greece Aleka Papariga and head of SYRIZA coalition Alexis Tsipras called on employees to escalate the struggle against government measures and IMF suggestions until the rich and powerful pay for the crisis.

Archaeological sites and theatres across Greece also shut down on Thursday and major problems were caused in transports by ships, as seamen hold a 72-hour strike since Wednesday.

The rest of the public transportation system and airports functioned as normal on Thursday as a sign of solidarity with passengers who suffered over the past week because of disruptions in flights due to the volcanic ash that spread across Europe after a volcano eruption in Iceland.

Source: Xinhua


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