Greece faces 48-hour strike over austerity cuts

Mon Nov 5, 2012 6:15pm EST
 
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By Karolina Tagaris

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek workers begin a 48-hour strike on Tuesday to protest against a new round of austerity cuts that unions say will devastate the poor and drive a failing economy to collapse.

The walkout, called by Greece's two biggest labor organizations, is the third major strike in two months against a package of spending cuts and reforms that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's government is trying to push through parliament to unlock aid.

Athens needs parliamentary approval for the package - which includes slashing pensions by as much as a quarter for some and scrapping holiday bonuses - to ensure its European Union and International Monetary Fund lenders release more than 31 billion euros ($40 billion) of aid, much of it aimed at shoring up banks.

The government has implored Greeks to endure the cuts in a bid to avoid national bankruptcy and insists they will be the last round of pain. But few are impressed in a nation where over a quarter are jobless while poverty and suicide levels soar.

"They should go to hell and beyond," said Anais Metaxopoulou, a 65-year-old pensioner, expressing the anger many Greeks feel towards their political class.

"They should ask me how I feel when I have to go to church to beg for food. I wouldn't hurt a fly but I would happily behead one of them."

The strike is timed to coincide with a crucial vote on Wednesday, when the government is expected to just about win backing for austerity cuts and labor reforms that the smallest party in Samaras's coalition has refused to back.

SENDING A MESSAGE   Continued...

 
People wait at a bus station outside of a closed metro station during a 24-hour strike against the government's austerity measures, halting services on the metro, railway and city trains in Athens November 5, 2012. Greece's government will present a new austerity package to parliament on Monday, facing a week of strikes and protests over proposals which must win deputies' approval if the country is to secure more aid and stave off bankruptcy. REUTERS/John Kolesidis