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Greek workers strike over austerity, bailout reform

May 30, 2018

Government plans for a new wave of austerity measures later this summer sparked the workers' revolt. Greece has been mired in a debt crisis since 2009, and the end of the third international bailout is looming.

Greek demosntrators carry large banner protesting pending austerity measures.
Image: Reuters/A. Konstantinidis

Whether by land, sea or air getting around Greece proved a challenge on Wednesday as a nationwide labor strike gripped the country.

Public transportation was disrupted; some flights canceled and sea-going ships were left in their docks.

Led by both the private and public sector unions, workers protested ongoing austerity measures as well as looming new cuts expected this summer.

Greece braces for post bailout era

The GSEE union and its public counterpart, ADEDY, organized the one-day walkout.

Striking workers, pensioners and students were expected to march through central Athens around noon local time (10:00 UTC). Journalists also walked off the job, leading to a dearth of news bulletins.

"The government, which implements the same policies that have destroyed the people and the economy, is loading the back of workers and pensioners with new unbearable measures," GSEE said in a statement.

Greece effectively declared bankruptcy in 2009 forcing it to borrow massive amounts of money from the international community.

In exchange, successive governments, including that of current Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, have been forced to impose onerous austerity measures. They have slashed pensions, laid-off public sector workers and hiked taxes.

Greece economy growing

More protests coming

Prime Minister Tsipras signed-up the country for the latest international bailout in 2015, despite strong public opposition. The bailout is due to expire in August. All told, Greece has received €260 billion  ($300 billion) through three rounds of loans.

His left-wing government gave in to lenders' demands for extending pension cuts and tax hikes into 2019 and 2020. However, the government has promised to reinstate collective bargaining and increase the minimum wage in the post-bailout period.

Despite an economic rebound in 2017 a broad segment of the public remains angry and has vowed more protests are coming.

"For workers, pensioners and the unemployed, the end of the bailout in August 2018 is not an automated process which will bring prosperity, but the beginning of new struggles," according to a statement put out by the dockworkers' union, which also joined the walkout. 

Protesters gather in front of the Greek parliament building in Athens.
Protesters gather in front of the Greek parliament building in AthensImage: Reuters/A. Konstantinidis

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bik/rt (Reuters, dpa)

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