Striking Greek workers shut down transport and tried to storm parliament as lawmakers passed 4.8 billion euros ($6.5 billion) in budget cuts, including wage reductions, needed to trim the region’s biggest budget deficit.
Police with riot shields fired tear gas at demonstrators outside parliament in Athens today as lawmakers approved the measures, which Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said will show European Union allies and investors that Greece is making good on its deficit pledges. Socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou has a 10-seat majority in the legislature.
“We didn’t create this crisis but now we have to pay for it,” said Manthos Adamakis, who was protesting with other catering workers outside the five-star Grande Bretagne Hotel on Syntagma Square in downtown Athens.
Tram, rail, subway and bus services shut in Athens and other cities as employees rallied against cuts to bonuses and holiday payments. A walk out by air-traffic controllers forced the cancellation of all 58 flights to and from Athens International Airport between midday and 4 p.m. and the rescheduling of another 135, according to a spokeswoman.
“We didn’t create this crisis but now we have to pay for it,” the union member says! Of course they created it, by striking and threatening strikes to demand raise after raise with ever greater benefits. Unions are paying for none of it — their fellow citizens are. And how screwy is the Greek economy that the government sets the wages of hotel caterers, if that is indeed the case?
Most Greeks oppose plans to cut wages and increase value- added tax, according to the first opinion poll published since the austerity moves were announced on March 3.
Seventy-two percent of 530 people surveyed by Public Issue for Skai Television said they disagreed with a drop in bonus- vacation payments, while 68 percent opposed a value-added tax increase. Sixty-two percent said Greece will see social unrest in the next year, according to the poll broadcast yesterday.
The additional budget cuts aim to save 1.7 billion euros through a 30 percent reduction to three bonus-salary payments to civil servants, a 7 percent overall decrease in wages at wider public-sector companies and a pension freeze. The reductions are accompanied by an increase to 21 percent from 19 percent in the main VAT tax as well as in alcohol and tobacco duties.
Teachers are also striking, closing some schools, and workers at the Public Power Corp SA, the country’s biggest electricity company and controlled by the state, have also called a 24-hour strike today.
ADEDY, which has already held two 24-hour strikes this year after the government backtracked on pledges to grant civil servants a wage increase, is considering holding another 24-hour strike next week.
It seems like everyone in Greece is on the dole, but I believe only 20% of employment is government work.
Where are the taxpayer protests telling these extortionists to go to hell and demanding that parliament repudiate the debt? Majority or minority, the victims in this racket sure are silent. It’s as if they think the money grows on trees (or as if Greece still can print Drachmas!).
The “austerity measures” and tax hikes are sure to fail. The debt is simply unpayable, so default is the only option if Germany is not willing to bail out Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and maybe even France. What are the odds of that? What happens in those volitile, socialist, economically ignorant countries if the government gravy train dries up? We haven’t seen anything yet.