Greeks are resisting a combination of government spending cuts and tax hikes—which some believe will result in an unemployment rate of 30 percent—imposed by international bailout creditors.
“We are protesting about (reduced) pensions, emergency taxes, the high cost of life,” said retired factory worker Kyriakos Anastassiadis.
Unions want the renewal of binding collective labor contracts instead of individual deals that give employers more control over salaries. They also want the government to support the collapsing labor market, in which roughly 1,000 jobs have been lost every day since 2010.
Working-class Greeks and other Europeans face a lifetime of paying off creditors as they lack some of the economic protections enjoyed by Americans. Greeks who are unable to pay their mortgages, for example, cannot declare bankruptcy and walk away from their homes. They remain personally liable for the money and have to spend some portion of the rest of their lives repaying it in a state of debt peonage.
“The Greek people have no tolerance left,” Ilias Iliopoulos, general secretary of the civil servants union ADEDY, said ahead of the strike. “For us, the time has come for a major confrontation with the government ... and [with] policies that are taking our country from bad to worse and leading people to poverty and desperation.”
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
AP via The Huffington Post:
The 24-hour nationwide walkout disrupted domestic flights, kept ferries and long-distance trains idle and crippled public services. It was the first general strike of the year, renewing confrontation between labor groups and the conservative-led government that has pursued punishing austerity policies to cut debt – a key condition imposed by international bailout creditors.
State schools and tax offices closed down, public hospitals functioned on emergency staff, court cases were stalled as lawyers walked off the job, and even neighborhood street fruit and vegetable markets were cancelled. Private doctors and dentists also joined the strike.
In Athens, police said about 25,000 people were marching toward Parliament with banners such as “We won’t become slaves in the 21st century,” in a demonstration organized by the main public and private sector unions. Earlier, some 15,000 members of a Communist Party-affiliated labor union protested peacefully along the same route.
Eric Vernier (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Protesters mass outside Parliament in Athens, Greece, during a demonstration in late 2011.