Rain dampens latest Greek strike against austerity

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 06, 2013 7:56 AM
Rain dampens latest Greek strike against austerity

By Renee Maltezou

ATHENS (Reuters) - Thousands of striking Greek workers marched to parliament in pouring rain on Wednesday to protest against measures imposed by foreign lenders, whose inspectors are in Athens to review the country's bailout.

The 24-hour general walkout by Greece's largest public and private sector unions shut schools and disrupted flights but far fewer people took to the streets compared with previous protests as heavy downpours blanketed Athens.

The "troika" of European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund inspectors resumed their latest bailout review on Tuesday.

"Enough is enough, we've lost our dignity." said Fotini Halikiopoulou, a 55-year old public sector employee.

"We've sacrificed everything and they (the troika) are not budging an inch."

School teachers, doctors, municipal and transport workers were among the groups that joined the strike. Air traffic controllers stopped work from 1000 to 1300 GMT and journalists stopped work for five hours.

But the bleak weather and despondency among Greeks inured to protests against the erosion of jobs and benefits meant the marches largely fizzled, with two unions cancelling plans for a coordinated march to parliament because of the rain.

About 15,000 protesters, mainly from the Communist group PAME and leftist parties, rallied at central Syntagma square where police and demonstrators have clashed in the past.

They held banners reading "No more sacrifices" and chanted "Don't bow down!"


Labour unions fear Greece will have to impose further wage and pension cuts to meet its bailout targets in the coming years, union officials said. Greece and its lenders are at odds over the size of a projected budget hole next year.

The unions are also protesting against planned public sector job cuts and privatizations.

"We'll keep fighting," said Stathis Anestis, general secretary of the private sector union GSEE. "We warn the government that people will not tolerate any more austerity."

Greece is in its sixth year of a recession, and repeated rounds of austerity have squeezed households and sent unemployment to record highs of over 27 percent.

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GSEE and public sector union ADEDY have brought people to the streets repeatedly since the crisis erupted in 2009, with turnout in some demonstrations topping 100,000. The protests have tested the government's will to implement spending cuts and reforms prescribed by the troika.

But this year protests have been dampened by a growing sense of resignation among Greeks.

Still, anger remains high against austerity policies identified with Germany and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's coalition government has rejected further across-the-board wage and pension cuts or tax increases to fill any budget gaps.

"Society cannot take it, the economy cannot take it, and it is not even required by the country's current financial situation," Samaras said in a television interview on Tuesday.

(Editing by Deepa Babington/Ruth Pitchford)