ATHENS – Scores of thousands of protests against austerity measures the last 7 ½ years haven’t worked yet but Greece’s public and private sector unions on Dec. 14 staged a 24-hour walkout that brought public transport to a screeching halt during a critical Christmas shopping period.
Unless people wanted to brave driving on gridlocked streets to reach the capital’s main downtown shopping streets, store owners were set to find themselves with far fewer customers as the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition has ignored protests.
The workers are angry that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has repeatedly reneged on anti-austerity promises to satisfy European creditors putting up 86 billion euros ($101.69 billion) in a third bailout he said he would never seek nor accept but did both.
That came with more brutal measures on workers, pensioners and the poor, the vulnerable sectors he vowed to save before abandoning them to demands from the Troika of the European Union-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM).
Government services were also shut down and commuters were urged not to drive and to avoid going into Athens’ center, leaving them without any other way to get there apart from walking.
Workers will parade through the streets outside Parliament where lawmakers won’t be in session and far from Maximos Mansion where the Prime Minister has his office and is unable to see them. He generally doesn’t out in public apart from scripted and carefully-staged appearances.
Lines 2 and 3 of the Athens metro and the tram will only run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. while the Piraeus-Kifissia electric railway (also known as Metro Line 1), city buses and trolley buses will operate between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.
There will be no services on the national rail network or the capital’s Proastiakos suburban railway, whose staff will be joining the 24-hour strike, which means no rail link to Athens International Airport, where air traffic controllers were to walk out from 8 a.m.-Noon, cancelling or delaying departures and arrivals.
Ferries will remain docked in ports around the country as Greek seamen join the 24-hour action and schools and public services will be closed while already-understaffed hospitals will be on a skeleton staff.