Greeks go on strike against austerity

Greeks go on strike against austerity

ATHENS – Reuters
Greeks go on strike against austerity

Greeks walked off the job in a nationwide strike yesterday to protest austerity measures and reforms the leftist-led government has agreed with the country’s creditors in exchange for bailout loans.

Domestic flights and Athens transport were disrupted, ships remained docked for 24 hours and some public services shut as part of the strike organized by Greece’s largest labor unions, private sector union GSEE and its public sector counterpart ADEDY.

GSEE and ADEDY have staged repeated strikes since the first bailout in 2010. But participation in protests has been low in recent years due to inertia and austerity fatigue after three rescue packages and five snap elections in eight years.

The Greek parliament was set to debate the 2018 budget yesterday. The country’s fiscal goals have been approved by its European Union lenders and the IMF.

As part of its latest bailout review, the government has agreed to cut spending further, to reduce pensions benefits, complete the evaluation of public sector staff, tighten the rules for unions to call a strike, and sell coal-fired power stations.

The state had adopted ‘ruthless dead end policies which were strangling the Greek people’, unions said in a statement.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was catapulted to power in 2015 on promises to end austerity. He later signed up to a new bailout and was re-elected pledging to protect the poor and pensioners as well as workers’ wages and rights. That bailout ends in August and Tsipras, whose term ends in 2019 and his party’s popularity is sliding in opinion polls, wants to attempt “a clean exit,” without additional aid.