Sea travel stops as Greek austerity protests continue

10:07, June 24, 2010      

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Anti-austerity protests shut down sea transport from Piraeus, Greece's biggest port, Wednesday in one more blow to the local tourism industry and economy, which have been hit hard this year by a severe economic crisis.

A strike by hundreds of dockworkers prevented the boarding of ships, cancelling dozens of trips, in protest of the austerity measures the Greek government has implemented in order to put the debt-ridden economy in order.

A Greek court on Tuesday declared illegal the 24-hour strike called by labor union PAME but its leadership and members, which are close to the Greek Communist Party (KKE), went on with the action.

As a result, hundreds of tourists heading for the Greek islands were left stranded in Piraeus.

On Monday, Greek Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos promised the state would cover all extra costs caused to tourists stranded because of a strike or natural disaster.

As disappointed Greek and foreign travelers and local businessmen argued with strikers, thousands of protesters held rallies in front of the parliament on Wednesday noon in Athens and warned of more strikes and protests.

They asked the government to withdraw cutbacks on salaries and wages, tax hikes and an increase in the retirement age limit to 65 years.

“We will continue the struggle for social justice,” said Aleka Papariga, General-Secretary of KKE, on Wednesday.

Later in the day, the umbrella union of civil servants, ADEDY, has scheduled another demonstration in the centre of the Greek capital.

The next big appointment for protesters is June 29, a day after the government tables in parliament a bill on the social security and pension reform.

ADEDY and GSEE, the umbrella union of private sector employees, have called for a nationwide 24-hour strike on June 29, the sixth this year, and protests across Greece.

The bill is being drafted in close cooperation with experts from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the two organisations providing rescue funds in return for the government's drastic austerity action.

The Greek crisis has alarmed European partners, who feared repercussions for the eurozone and led to their financial support over the next three years.

The bill on the pension reform is expected to be ratified, as the ruling socialist PASOK party enjoys a big majority in parliament, but reactions and problems remain. As labor unions plan more protests, representatives of the tourism industry are complainingt more and more damage is being done.

Source: Xinhua


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