ATHENS – It was futile again, but Greek public and private sector workers struck again on May 30 to protest more than eight years of austerity measures during a long-running economic crisis that has seen successive governments go after them, pensioners and the poor while letting the rich, politicians and tax cheats escape.
This time the demonstrators were upset that Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, breaking anti-austerity vows, had agreed to demands from the country’s international lenders to cut pensions again and put first-time taxes on previously exempt low-and-middle income families and individuals.
Those will kick in beginning in 2019 and 2020, or possibly sooner, after three rescue packages of 326 billion euros ($382.01 billion) expire on Aug. 20, leaving Greece to the mercy of the markets at the same time Tsipras said he’s bringing a recovery but that the loans can’t be repaid without debt relief of some form.
Some flights were grounded, ships stayed in port and public transport was disrupted – rolled over into May 31 – as the private union GSEE joined the public workers union ADEDY in a protest that, like thousands of others since 2010, was ignored by the government.
were unable to sail and public transport was disrupted in the one-day nationwide action organized by Greece’s largest labor unions, the private sector union GSEE and its public sector counterpart ADEDY.
Greece’s largest carrier Aegean and Olympic Air cancelled three return flights and rescheduled 50 flight legs. Journalists at also walked off the job, cancelling news bulletins.
Buses and trolleys were operating on reduced hours and air traffic controllers were due to stage a walkout.
“For workers, pensioners and the unemployed, the end of the bailout in August 2018 is not an automated process which will bring prosperity, but the beginning of new struggles,” the dockworkers’ union which also joined the walkout said in a statement.
The 24-hour strike called by the country’s largest unions also closed schools and left public hospitals running on emergency staff.
Thousands of protesters gathered in central Athens and the country’s second largest city of Thessaloniki. In the capital, more than 8,000 people marched through the streets in separate demonstrations, while about 3,000 more protested in Thessaloniki.
“The government is continuing disastrous policies for society and the economy, forcing unsustainable measures onto the backs of wage-earners and retired people,” said GSEE in a statement.
“The constant deterioration in the living standards is part of a downward trend that people (in government) chose not to see,” the union said.
Greece is currently negotiating the terms of its bailout exit with European creditors, including how its finances will be monitored and the conditions of a promised debt relief package. But the talks, due to be concluded in a few weeks, have been overshadowed by the political crisis in Italy and the resulting financial turmoil.
Eurozone member Greece has relied on money from three consecutive bailouts since losing market access in 2010. The rescue loans have been provided by other EU countries that use the euro as their currency and the International Monetary Fund, though the IMF has held off on a cash contribution toward Greece latest program.
A new round of administrative and market reforms demanded by creditors is due to be voted on in Parliament on June 14.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)