Wave of protests hits Greece ahead of new austerity measures

Source:Xinhua Published: 2012-9-13 9:20:54

A wave of protests hit Greece on Wednesday with municipal workers, teachers, doctors, patients and armed forces personnel taking to the streets of central Athens denouncing a planned fresh austerity package.

People suffering from cancer and other chronic diseases launched the mobilization, rallying in front of the parliament building and the nearby Finance Ministry.

"They condemn us to death, without doctors and medicines," read the banners they raised.

After two years of harsh austerity which has reduced salaries, pensions and social welfare benefits and fuelled recession and unemployment in debt-crippled Greece, they were shouting that they can no longer afford to pay for their treatment.

Pharmacists have stopped providing medication on credit to patients insured with the National Healthcare Organization (EOPYY), due to million-euro due payments by the state.

Doctors working in public hospitals, who were on a 24-hour strike, joined the patients to protest staff and drugs shortages due to cutbacks on public spending.

Another rally was staged by employees in the local administration who held a 48-hour strike to protest budget cuts, while members of the armed forces organized a similar protest near the parliament building.

Two days after the start of the new school year, teachers in public primary and secondary schools on a 24-hour strike marched against new wage cuts, along with other civil servants who were on work stoppages.

The umbrella union of civil servants ADEDY said that it plans a general strike in coming weeks in coordination with private sector workers union GSEE, as the government will be pushing through the parliament the new package of austerity measures under discussion.

Later on Wednesday evening, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is scheduled to hold a new meeting with his two coalition partners to finalize the 11.5-billion-euro (14.6-billion-US dollar) package requested by European Union (EU)/International Monetary Fund (IMF) creditors in return for further aid to Greece.

According to Greek media reports and short statements of deputies of the three ruling coalition parties, talks could drag onto next week, since there is still no agreement on fresh cuts on salaries, pensions and mass layoffs of civil servants, as was suggested by visiting EU/IMF auditors.

The inspectors are said to be pressuring for difficult decisions, such as the immediate dismissal of 50,000 civil servants and a new rise to retirement age to 67 up from the current 65, before submitting a report on Greece's progress in fulfilling commitments under the bailout agreements.

Kept afloat with multi-billion-euro rescue loans since May 2010, Greece needs to convince lenders that it will stay on the fiscal consolidation and reform track in order to receive fresh bailout aid this autumn and stave off a disorderly default and potential exit from the euro.

Posted in: Europe

blog comments powered by Disqus