August 23, 2019

Greek general strike puts pressure on parliament

No it is not tourists. It is protesters gathering outside the Greek parliament in Athens.

As the Greek parliament debates prior to a key vote on new austerity measures, Unions in Greece have staged a 48 hour general strike to protest the European/IMF bailout conditions.

Large crowds of protesters are gathering on the streets, with public transport in Athens grinding to a halt.

On Monday, Prime Minister George Papandreou said only his 28 billion euro austerity programme will get Greece back on its feet.

If the government loses, the EU and IMF could withhold 12 billion euros of loans and Greece could run out of money in weeks.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said French banks are ready to offer new 30-year loans to Greece when its current debts fall due. France has by far the biggest exposure to Greek debt with Germany in second place.

More than 5,000 police officers are due to be deployed in the centre of Athens on Tuesday morning, when tens of thousands of striking workers are expected to march towards parliament.

The general strike is disrupting or halting most public services, with doctors, ambulance drivers, journalists and even state-funded actors taking part.

Airports were to be shut for hours at a time, with air traffic controllers walking out between 0800 and 1200 and 1800 and 2200. Athens international airport displayed a number of flights being cancelled from 0730.

Trains, buses and ferries are also stopping operation.

In Athens, the metro will be the only form of public transport which will work “so as to allow Athenians to join the planned protests in the capital”, metro drivers said.

The unions are angry that the government’s austerity programme will impose taxes on those earning the minimum wage, following months of other cuts which have seen unemployment rise to more than 16%.

“These measures are a massacre for workers’ rights. It will truly be hell for the working man. The strike must bring everything to a standstill,” Thanassis Pafilis, a Greek Communist Party MP, told the Associated Press.

Greece’s economic reforms, which led to it abandoning the drachma as its currency for the euro in 2002, made it easier for the country to borrow money.

Greece went on a debt-funded spending spree, including paying for high-profile projects such as the 2004 Athens Olympics, which went well over its budget.

When the economic downturn hit Greece had to spend more on benefits and received less in taxes.

Please can we have no jokes about productivity levels going up in Greece during the general strike.