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Greece: Anti-austerity protesters eye post-bailout battle

April 25, 2018

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Athens and other cities Wednesday, vowing to challenge ongoing bailout-related austerity measures after the rescue program ends in a few months.

Three successive demonstrations were held in Athens in opposition to the sale of power plants, planned pension cuts, and funding cuts at state-run hospitals. Left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ government has promised lenders it will continue infrastructure privatization and draconian spending controls after the bailout program ends in late August, in exchange for more favorable repayment terms.

Greece’s post-bailout plans are due to be discussed on a visit to Athens by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Thursday and at a meeting of eurozone finance ministers the following day in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Protest leaders say they were also making their own post-bailout plans. “We don’t owe our pensions to (bailout) creditors. We worked our whole life to get our pension, and we will keep fighting till we get back what they have taken from us,” pension protest organizer Dimos Koumbouris.

The government has already signed up to more across-the-board pension cuts in 2019, the main reason of Wednesday’s march by retirees. State-run hospital workers were also on strike, demanding more funding for healthcare and protesting shortages in the hospitals. And workers at the Public Power Corporation, protesting the prospective sale of lignite plants, dumped sacks of lignite on the steps near parliament.

Greece has depended on international bailouts since 2010, and has had to push through stringent spending cuts and tax hikes in return for the emergency loans. Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos on Wednesday said there had been no discussion with creditors on whether austerity measures agree for 2019-20 could be amended, but he cited data reported this week showing that the government had beaten budget targets for three successive years.

“Greece’s fiscal adjustment has been completed,” Tzanakopoulos. “The lenders should take that into account.”

Srdjan Nedeljkovic in Athens contributed.

Thousands protest austerity reforms in Athens

April 25, 2018

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Athens to protest bailout-related reforms, including the sale of power plants, potential pension cuts and staffing funding cuts for state-run hospitals.

At least three separate successive demonstrations were being held Wednesday, passing by parliament and the ministries of finance and labor. State-run hospital workers were also on strike, demanding more funding for healthcare and protesting shortages in the hospitals. Workers at the Public Power Corporation, protesting the prospective sale of lignite plants, dumped sacks of lignite on the steps near parliament. Pensioners were also marching to protest pension cuts.

Greece has depended on international bailouts since 2010, and has had to push through stringent spending cuts and tax hikes in return for the emergency loans.

1000s hold anti-austerity demo in Athens

Sun Mar 30, 2014

Thousands of people in Greece have held a protest rally outside the parliament in the capital Athens against government’s austerity measures.

Over 12,000 people rallied in the capital on Sunday ahead of the parliament vote on a bill for fresh international loans.

Lawmakers are expected to approve the bill required by the country’s troika of international lenders — the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund — despite public dissatisfaction and eleventh-hour attempts to delay voting by the opposition.

The legislation will unlock for Greece over 11.7 billion dollars. However, the country’s main opposition, Syriza party, slammed the vote.

Syriza’s leader Alexis Tsipras, who described the new bill as “a crime committed against the people and our country,” blamed Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras for being “the main administrator of the death contract against Greek society.”

“You are passing a sweeping 600-pages multi-bill with which you are signing away the banking system and you are abolishing labor rights and the public insurance system,” Tsipras said.

Greek officials are willing to have the bill ratified before meetings with European Union finance ministers in Athens on Tuesday to officially conclude the agreement for the new tranche of the international loans by the second half of April.

Greece has been at the epicenter of debt crisis in the eurozone and has so far experienced seven years of recession.

Since 2010, the national health, education and local government budgets have been cut down by some 40 percent and so have wages and pensions.

Source: PressTV.


Greek riot police clash with demonstrators during nationwide strike

By BNO News

ATHENS (BNO NEWS) — Greek riot police clashed with protesters in central Athens on Wednesday during a nationwide strike over the government’s austerity measures, local media reported.

According to reports, police forces used tear gas and batons against the stone-throwing youths. Two people were injured following the clashes, the Kathimerini newspaper reported on its website.

The national strike brought air and train traffic to a halt throughout the country. In addition, tax offices were closed as state workers walked off the job, hospitals ran on emergency staff and some state schools were closed. Workers protested salary cuts prescribed by the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), layoffs and tax increases.

Hundreds of thousands of people were expected to join the strike and thousands to take to the streets, while EU and IMF auditors continue to review the country’s finances to see if Athens qualifies to receive another bailout.

The Greek government announced this week that it would miss 2011 deficit targets set as conditions of a bailout aimed at staving off bankruptcy, despite the austerity measures. On Monday, it announced that it will be cutting the jobs of up to 27,000 civil servant employees by the end of the year as part of its cost-cutting measures.

The country’s main labor unions have staged repeated strikes since Athens asked the EU and the IMF for a bailout last year. In June, at least 100 were injured during clashes with riot police.

(Copyright 2011 by BNO News B.V. All rights reserved.)

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Source: WireUpdate.


General strike shuts down services across Greece

November 06, 2013

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Services across Greece shut down Wednesday as unions held a 24-hour general strike to protest further austerity cuts in the cash-strapped country.

The strike disrupted public transport, halted ferry and train services, shut down courts and state-run schools, and left state hospitals and the ambulance service functioning with emergency staff. Dozens of flights were canceled or rescheduled as air traffic controllers were to walk off the job for three hours from noon in support of the labor action.

In Athens, more than 1,000 Communist party supporters marched to Parliament, shouting anti-austerity slogans in the driving rain. A second demonstration called by the country’s two biggest unions was scheduled to start later Wednesday.

Greece has been surviving on international rescue loans from the International Monetary Fund and other European countries that use the euro since 2010, after a combination of dismal financial stewardship, loss of investor confidence and the global recession brought it to the brink of bankruptcy. Successive governments have passed repeated rounds of deep spending cuts and tax hikes to secure 240 billion euros ($324 billion dollars) in bailout loans.

The strike is taking place as the government holds talks with debt inspectors from the IMF, European Central Bank and European Commission, known collectively as the troika, over what measures are needed to plug a budget gap next year.

Greece and the troika differ over the size of the gap. Athens maintains the shortfall will be around 500 million euros and can be plugged relatively easily, but Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras has conceded creditors expect the gap to be five times as big.

At stake is Greece’s next bailout installment of 1 billion euros ($1.35 billion). The country’s conservative-led government insists it cannot impose more across the board cuts on a population that has already suffered an average 40 percent loss in disposable income since 2009 and seen unemployment spike to a staggering 28 percent.

Laid-off Finance Ministry cleaner Evangelia Alexaki, who lost her 500-euro a month job as part of the spending cuts, said she is now destitute. “They throw us to the streets, just like that,” she said Wednesday. “Women who are 57 and 58 years old, and (too young) to get pensions or anything else. For us, this money was little but at least we could fulfill some of the family’s needs. Now they’re sending us to poverty.”

Greek protesters take campaign to Acropolis

August 02, 2013

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek civil servants protesting mass staff cuts took their campaign to the gates of the ancient Acropolis on Friday, after the government announced that 500 workers at the culture ministry would be suspended next month.

State archaeologists gathered in front of the ancient site, but did not block the entrance. Several museums around the country, including the popular Archaeological Museum on the island of Santorini, were closed in protest.

Elsewhere, civil servants continued a second day of work stoppages and held a protest rally in central Athens. The government has promised its international rescue lenders it will suspend 25,000 public sector workers by the end of the year, with about a third of them likely to be fired.

Despina Koutsoumba, head of the Association of Greek Archaeologists at the ministry, said employees were preparing to step up protests, and were to hold a meeting Monday to decide on strikes. “As things stand, we don’t have enough people to function properly. We have to cover 19,000 archaeological sites and 210 museums nationwide, as well as several hundred archaeological excavations in progress all over the country,” Koutsoumba told the AP, as colleagues held up a Styrofoam cut of a temple, with “for sale” signs stuck on it.

“We have 6,600 staff at the Ministry of Culture and Sport, and they will dismiss 500. But they will just have to hire that number back again — of course on part-time contracts and for less money.” Civil servants have seen their salaries repeatedly cut since the start of the crisis in late 2009, but had been largely spared dismissals, while unemployment ravaged the private sector as debts and austerity measures squeezed credit and led to multiple tax hikes.

But Greece is now under growing pressure from its bailout lenders — the other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund — to fire workers on the state payroll. Parliament late Thursday approved legislation to speed up the closure of state-run companies and departments, and the government on Friday published a list of criteria that will be used to assess staff placed in the eight-month suspension scheme.

Whether an employee is fired or submitted to involuntary transfer within the public sector will depend on criteria such as work experience, language skills, level of higher education, and family disabilities, among others.

Some think the plan may lead to more cuts than currently estimated. Critics note that the government has during the crisis repeatedly changed its austerity plans to meet new targets. “We don’t believe they really have a plan,” Koutsoumba said. “This is a head count. And now we have got to the point where they are chopping off those heads.”

Greeks Take to the Streets Against More Cuts

By Joanna Kakissis / Athens

Wednesday, Oct. 05, 2011

The Greek government is facing powerful public resistance to new austerity measures that foreign lenders are demanding in return for bailout loans. But only a few thousand protesters marched to Parliament on Wednesday during the first general strike since June. Scuffles broke out between fringe anarchists and riot police. Officers dispersed the crowd with tear gas.

Marina Massad, a 19-year-old photography student, said this chronic violence likely scared most Greeks into staying home. “No one likes the chemicals,” said Massad, her face smeared with white liquid maalox, which helps keeps tear gas from stinging. “They are scared. But someone has to come out here and make some noise. So here I am.”

The country’s main labor unions, ADEDY and GSEE, which represent 2.5 million workers, held the strike to protest cuts in the public sector and a new property tax which will be collected through electricity bills. The strike grounded most international flights, halted trains and closed tax offices and some state schools. Hospitals are running on emergency staff. At the same time, inspectors from the European Union and International Monetary Fund continue their evaluation of Greece’s finances to determine whether the country should receive $11 billion, the latest installment of a $150 billion bailout loan package, by next month. The Greek government said Tuesday it has enough cash to pay its bills only through November.

Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said Tuesday that Greeks must back the new measures if the country has any hope of meeting its deficit target for 2011, which was revised to 8.5% of gross domestic product from 7.6%. Along with tax hikes, budget cuts and the long-overdue reforming of the country’s bloated public sector, the Greek government must also privatize some state assets and crack down on longtime tax evasion.

But winning public support for more austerity seems virtually impossible right now. Polls show that nearly all Greeks oppose more cuts and most believe the measures have done little to get Greece out of debt. More than a year of tax hikes and wage and pension cuts have decimated the middle class. Unemployment is at more than 16%. Personal bankruptcies, homelessness, suicides and crime are all on the rise. And yet the Greek government missed its deficit targets this year. Euro-zone finance ministers have decided to delay the latest loan payment, which Greece needs to stay solvent, because they don’t think the country is trying hard enough to reform itself. More austerity, they say.

Yanis Varoufakis, a professor of economic theory at the University of Athens, is one of many economists who say austerity is actually killing an already weak Greek economy. “Anyone with any logic can see that this is not the way to jump-start the economy of a country that’s in recession,” Varoufakis says. Instead, austerity has put the economy in “a permafrost from which the Greek society has lost its capacity to react creatively to the crisis and to work itself out of the hole in which it has found itself.”

Greeks have also lost faith in nearly all of their politicians. As the government party, center-left PASOK has suffered the most. “Right now, considering how big and unprecedented this financial crisis is, it’s understood that the government committed the equivalent of political suicide a long time ago with the austerity drive,” says Takis Pappas, a political science professor.

PASOK, which stands for the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, is led by George Papandreou, a quiet but stubborn sociologist and the American-born scion of Greece’s most prominent political family. His grandfather and father were both premiers. His father, Andreas, who founded the party, was a Harvard-educated economist who built up the public sector to offer “jobs for life” to an emerging middle class in Greece. The civil service never became a bastion of Greece’s best minds. Instead, it grew into an unwieldy monster overstuffed with party loyalists, many of whom were unqualified for their jobs.

Yet many Greeks, even well-educated ones, long desired a position in the civil service “because it was easy,” Pappas says. “Now that option is gone. So for the government to restructure the civil service and make it truly productive, it has to make sure that it lays off not the bright, efficient workers but the ones who are not doing their jobs. It has to give people incentives to strive instead of rely on cronyism. The state needs to show that it has changed.”

Anita Papachristopoulou, a 44-year-old environmental scientist who works for the Athens Water Supply and Sewer Company, says there’s a grain of truth to the caricature of the lazy Greek civil servant worker. But she says there are thousands of Greek public-sector employees, like herself, who got their jobs through perseverance, not connections. “No one introduced me to anyone,” says Papachristopoulou. “I just sent in my application cold, and I was lucky to get the job.”

Panagiotis Akarepis, a 44-year-old air traffic controller, got his civil service post — one of the most demanding jobs in the world — after he passed several stringent tests. Air traffic controllers walked off the job as part of the larger strike by ADEDY, the public sector union, but also because of they say are illegal cuts on allowances and pay.

“They are penalizing everyone indiscriminately for this bad image of public servants, which in turn makes people who actually do work, not want to work,” he says. “How is anything ever going to get done this way? It’s totally unfair to put everyone in the same bucket.”

Source: TIME.


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