Greeks public sector workers strike as lenders check reform progress

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 24, 2013 3:19 AM

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek public sector workers went on strike for the second time in a week on Tuesday, shutting schools and leaving hospitals with skeleton staff, as inspectors from Greece's foreign lenders checked if the country was meeting its bailout targets.

From municipal police to teachers, workers began a 48-hour strike against plans to cut thousands of public sector jobs, public anger fuelled by the killing of an anti-racism rapper by a supporter of the far-right Golden Dawn party.

ADEDY, the public sector umbrella union which organised the walkout, said government efforts to reduce the 600,000 strong civil service was "the most merciless plan" to eliminate workers' rights.

The government has dubbed the plan a "mobility scheme", meaning workers will have to find work in another department within eight months or be laid off. The workers say the government is firing them indiscriminately at a time when Greece in enduring its worst peacetime crisis and record unemployment.

"We call on the workers ... the self-employed, the unemployed, the pensioners, the youth and everyone affected by these policies to give their resounding presence," ADEDY said.

Various groups, among them teachers, municipal police and doctors, planned to march towards the main Syntagma square later on Tuesday.

The trio of the country's European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank, which began their review this week, were due to visit Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Tuesday.

The latest review by the lenders, which have bailed out Greece with more than 240 billion euros ($323.82 billion), will determine the size of a third bailout to keep the country afloat and is expected to last at least until the end of next month.

Backed by a vocal anti-bailout opposition which has openly called on citizens to take to the streets to overthrow the government, unions have stepped up protests in recent months.

Scores of municipal police dressed in black instead of their traditional green uniforms staged a mock funeral in Athens on Monday and somberly marched behind a hearse across the city center, carrying wreaths and singing psalms.

But the latest labour action has also turned into a protest to mark the fatal stabbing of Pavlos Fissas by a self-proclaimed supporter of the far-right Golden Dawn party last week.

ADEDY and its private sector union GSEE, which represent about 2.5 million workers, have brought people to the streets repeatedly since the crisis broke out in 2009 and plan to stage an anti-fascism rally in the Syntagma Square on Wednesday.

Syriza called on Greeks to join the rally "to defend democracy, dignity and civilisation".

"A massive presence will be the most resounding condemnation of the Golden Dawn murderers of Pavlos Fissas," Syriza said.

Golden Dawn, Greece's third most popular party, denies involvement in the killing and says the 45-year-old attacker, who has been charged with murder, was not a member.

(Writing by Karolina Tagaris, editing by Elizabeth Piper)