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Society

General Strike Shuts Down Athens, But Not Austerity

December 15, 2017

ATHENS – Another protest against austerity in Greece, this one a general shutdown of government services and public transportation on Dec. 14, gave workers a day off but was, have thousands of others, ignored by the government.

People angry that Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras reneged on promises to reverse big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions, worker firings and the sell-off of state assets took to the streets in big numbers in what has become a ho-hum affair.

Tsipras’ government, a coalition with the pro-austerity, marginal, jingoistic Independent Greeks has forged ahead with more brutal conditions for workers, pensioners and the poor while letting the rich, tax cheats, politicians and the privileged largely escape.

Three international bailouts of 326 billion euros ($384.33 billion) that have done nothing cut the country’s debt are due to expire at the end of August, 2018, leaving Greece to hope for a return to markets or face the prospect of another rescue package and more austerity.

The strike halted ferry services to the islands, closed state schools, and left public hospitals accepting only emergency cases.

Airlines rescheduled and cancelled flights as some airport staff joined the labor action with a four-hour work stoppage, and public transport was operating only for certain hours during the day.

Thousands of people gathered in Athens for anti-government protests, while demonstrations were planned in more than 50 cities and towns across the country.

“The government is doing a dirty job at the expense of the Greek people,” said Greek Communist Party leader Dimitris Koutsoumbas, speaking at the main morning rally in central Athens, which was attended by more than 16,000 people, according to police estimates.

The government’s borrowing rates have tumbled, and the country is on course to achieve modest economic growth in 2017. But poverty rates continue to worsen after years of cuts.

Household incomes have fallen by about a third since the crisis started in 2009, according to World Bank data, and inequality has risen due to high long-term unemployment.

Roughly half the country’s taxpayers are behind on payments, with several hundred thousand facing the threat of asset seizures.

The protest was triggered by a government plan to toughen strike rules in draft legislation submitted to Parliament but swiftly withdrawn as the measure was also against SYRIZA’s alleged principles although the party has gone after workers hard previously and the Troika of the European Union-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM) doesn’t want strikes and wants workers rights watered down.

and swiftly withdrawn.

Tsipras has also promised to help banks clear a mountain of bad loans, speeding up auctions and foreclosures, mostly online to get around protesters attacking notaries at courthouse hearings..

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

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