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Society

Another Anti-Austerity Strike Shuts Down Athens’ Transport

January 15, 2018

ATHENS – They haven’t worked yet, but Greek workers upset with more than 7 ½ years of austerity measures and new ones agreed by the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition took to the streets in protest strikes.

Thousands of previous demonstrations and walkouts haven’t moved any government to back down from demands of international lenders putting up 326 billion euros ($400.45 billion) in three bailouts.

This one, as have many, shut down transportation systems, not affecting politicians who get free cars to drive around in, but commuters and workers were inconvenienced again, finding it difficult to get to their jobs or downtown stores that have been repeatedly hurt.

The protests were against a proposal by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who had supported the right to strike but now is willing to require strikes to get the backing of at least 50 percent of unionists instead of 33 percent as now.

His government, which also has imposed an avalanche of tax hikes and new taxes, as well as more pension cuts and taxes on low-and-moderate income families, also wants to end welfare benefits to families with three or more children although he swore he would protect the country’s most vulnerable and defy the Quartet of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-IMF-ECB-ESM) before surrendering.

Unless the reforms are passed, the government won’t get the release of more monies from a third rescue package, this one for 86 billion euros ($105.64 billion) Tsipras sought and accepted after saying he would do neither.

The package is expected to be approved Jan. 15 by lawmakers from the governing left-led coalition and its junior coalition partner, the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks (ANEL) which together have a scant three-vote majority.

Labor unions shut down all public transport in Athens, while state-run schools and public hospitals also faced disruptions as teachers and doctors participated in work stoppages. Dozens of flights were being either rescheduled or cancelled due to a three-hour walk-out by air traffic controllers.

Unions were planning three separate protest marches in central Athens, starting just after midday and culminating in the evening.

The more than 1500-page austerity bill is considered to be potentially the last major package of spending cuts and reforms before Greece formally ends its bailout program in August.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)

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