Greek public sector workers strike over reforms

Wed Dec 19, 2012 8:57am EST
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By Renee Maltezou

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek public sector workers walked off the job on Wednesday in protest at new austerity measures and layoffs demanded by foreign lenders, disrupting transport and shutting public schools and tax offices.

The 24-hour strike is the latest in a series of protests since September against a package of wage cuts and tax hikes demanded by Greece's European Union and IMF lenders as the price of bailout loans to keep the country afloat.

About 6,000 teachers, doctors, municipal and transport workers rallied in central Athens as part of the walkout called by the ADEDY union, which represents half a million public sector workers - roughly a quarter of the country's workforce.

The demonstrators marched to the ministry overseeing public sector reform chanting "They won't stop unless we stop them" and held banners reading "Kick them out!", but the turnout was much smaller than for previous protests this year.

"We want to tell the government enough is enough! Enough with layoffs, wage and pension cuts, the collapse of the public sector, enough with these tax hikes," said ADEDY's Despina Spanou. "People are fed up and will show their rage."

The latest measures - which include earmarking 27,000 civil servants for eventual dismissal - are deeply unpopular among Greeks who say society is crumbling under the weight of repeated spending cuts and tax hikes that punish the middle class.

But the rallies have lost some of their momentum since the austerity package was approved and Athens received long-delayed funds from its foreign lenders, averting the risk of bankruptcy that had hung over the cash-strapped country for months.

Unions also say that some Greeks, although fed up with austerity, could no longer afford to lose a day's wages by taking part in strikes.   Continued...

Employees of the Athens-Piraeus Electric Railway block the entrance of the company headquarters in Athens December 19, 2012. Greek public sector workers walked off the job on Wednesday in protest at new austerity measures and planned layoffs, disrupting local transport, grounding flights and shutting schools and tax offices. REUTERS/Yorgos Karahalis