Greek unions vow more building take-overs

AP News
Posted: Oct 14, 2011 3:32 PM
Greek unions vow more building take-overs

Protesting Greek unions vowed Friday to bring the government to a standstill next week, as uncollected trash piled up around Athens, traffic was snarled and more professions signed up for a 48-hour general strike against the country's relentless austerity measures.

Defying government warnings, the civil servants' union called on its members to occupy government buildings next week to "prevent the new crime against the country's working people."

The union is already leading a general strike planned on Oct. 19 and 20, timed to coincide with a vote in parliament to pass new austerity measures. Air traffic controllers announced plans Friday to join the protest, promising to ground all flights on the two days of the general strike.

The Greek Communist Party said one of its affiliated labor unions is planning to surround parliament on Oct. 20 to try to prevent the vote.

The government has been imposing repeated rounds of austerity measures as it struggles to meet the requirements to qualify for funds from a euro110 billion ($151 billion) international bailout loan that is preventing it from defaulting on its debts. Its international debt inspectors have said the country will likely receive the next euro8 billion installment of the loans in early November.

The latest painful reforms will cut public sector salaries, leave 30,000 government workers suspended on reduced pay, lower the income tax threshold for all Greeks and cut pensions.

"Yes, unfortunately we must cut salaries and pensions ... Yes, unfortunately we must impose greater taxes," Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos told parliament.

"The ship has not hit the rocks or run aground, but we are sailing in high winds and under very difficult conditions ... And I sound the alarm: the country must start to recover immediately."

He criticized protesting civil servants who have taken over government buildings.

"The image created over last few weeks is one of lawlessness," he said. "I understand that people who have had their pay cut may go out and protest. But there is a limit. The state must continue to function."

In Athens, buses, subway trains, trams and taxis were not running in the Greek capital Friday as public transport workers walked off the job for a second day.

Municipal and health services began spraying garbage piles with disinfectant and used privately contracted collectors to replace striking municipal workers.

Riot police late Friday took up positions around the city's landfill, which has been blockaded for two weeks, while dozens of protesters gathered at the entrance, using trash to set up burning barricades.

Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis urged the government and protesters to show restraint.

"The prospect of clashes at the landfill must be avoided at all costs," Kaminis told private Mega television.

Midway though its four year term, the Socialist government has seen its majority in parliament whittled down from 10 seat to just four over dissent to austerity measures. At least five Socialist deputies have expressed public opposition to the latest round, demand ing that a planned shake-up of labor rules be softened in exchange for their support at next week's vote.


Associated Press writer Elena Becatoros and AP photographer Thanassis Stavrakis contributed.