Greek General Strike Halts Flights, Shuts Schools Over Austerity Program
Greek unions kept ferries docked at ports, grounded flights and shut hospitals and schools today in renewed protests against Prime Minister George Papandreou’s plans to sell state assets and usher in more spending cuts.
ADEDY, the largest public-sector union, and the General Confederation of Labor, or GSEE, Greece’s largest private-sector union, are protesting against 76 billion euros ($109 billion) of planned expenditure reductions and asset sales. The general strike, the second this year, was held as officials from the European Union and International Monetary Fund begin a review of the country that will allow a fifth installment of loans to be paid under an international bailout.
“A year ago, the government announced and took some measures against the civil servants, against the workers, against the wages,” Vassilis Xenakis, a public-sector union leader involved in organizing a demonstration today, said in an interview on BBC Radio 4. “The result was the people became poorer, the markets have been frozen, there is no growth, there is no productivity and nobody invests.”
“Today the government comes again asking for more measures, so who can accept once again all these measures without results?” Xenakis said.
Police estimated that attendance at marches in Athens and Piraeus, the biggest port, was at least 18,000. In the capital, marchers shouted “Take your memorandum and go”. Police used tear gas to break up minor scuffles with protesters.
Twenty-four protesters were detained and two police officers injured, a police spokesman, who wouldn’t be named, said by telephone. A representative of the director of the Nikeas General State Hospital said one protester was admitted to the hospital and underwent surgery for unspecified injuries. The 32-year-old man was in a stable condition after being treated for a head injury, a spokesman for the Health Ministry in Athens said by phone, declining to be named.
Unions rallied today to oppose the planned sales of stakes in state-owned companies such as Public Power Corp SA. (PPC) The GENOP union, which represents workers there, has said it may hold rolling strikes until the government backs down. Worker boycotts caused blackouts across the country in 2008.
Athens International Airport, the country’s biggest and one of the assets the government plans to reduce its holding in, shut from midday to 4 p.m. as air traffic controllers walked out. Journalists also joined the strike call, leading to a media blackout.
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