Greek unions to strike over cuts in public jobs
ATHENS - Reuters
Municipal police members demonstrate in Thessaloniki on 10 July. Greek municipal workers went on strike for the third consecutive day on July 10. AFP photoGreek workers will walk off the job in a 24-hour general strike next week, unions said yesterday, in the first major protest against the government’s latest plan to cut thousands of public sector jobs to please international lenders.
The July 16 strike could coincide with a parliamentary vote expected next week on the policies Athens agreed with its European Union and International Monetary Fund lenders as a condition for more aid.
Among the measures included in the multi-pronged bill are job cuts for school guards, municipal police and other local government posts. A date for the vote has yet to be set, but the government hopes to put it to deputies by July 19.
“The government and the lenders need to finally realise that we are people - not numbers,” GSEE, the biggest private sector union said. “Our fight will continue and it will intensify as long as those who take decisions insist on driving the people to poverty”.
Greece’s lenders, which have bailed it out twice with 240-billion euros in aid, have grown impatient with the slow progress it has made in streamlining a 600,000-strong public sector widely seen as corrupt and inefficient.
But with unemployment at almost 27 percent, twice the euro zone average, the workers are furious at plans to put 12,500 workers into a “mobility pool” by September, giving them eight months to find work in another department or get fired.Some 25,000 workers will be placed in the scheme by the end of the year, the government has said.
Representing about 2.5 million workers, GSEE and the biggest public sector union ADEDY have gone on strike repeatedly since Greece was plunged into a debt crisis in late 2009.
While action has been less frequent and more muted than last year when marches often turned violent, protests against public sector reform have picked up since the government agreed this week to shrink the civil service.
Thousands of municipal workers have already held rowdy marches in the capital this week, with uniformed police riding their motorbikes to ministries, sounding sirens and honking horns.POE-OTA, the federation of local government unions which staged two strikes this week, was due to decide later whether to take more action. Dozens of municipal workers held sit-ins at several public buildings in Athens and other Greek cities yesterday.