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Society

May Day! May Day! Low-Paid Greeks Demand Raises, Back Palestinians

ATHENS – Largely left out of Greece’s economic comeback that has seen the rich prosper but households struggling with high prices, Greek workers took to the streets on May Day to demand pay raises.

Greeks are among the lowest paid and highest taxed in the European Union, which has left many trying to cope even as an economic comeback has accelerated with the COVID-19 pandemic all but over.

Hundreds marched through central Athens, calling on the New Democracy government to lift their salaries closer to the EU average, and also to demonstrate Ships remained docked at Greek ports and buses and metro services in the capital were disrupted as transport workers joined a 24-hour strike called by Greece’s largest trade unions in the private and public sector for Labor Day.

Many of the demonstrators who had gathered peacefully outside the Greek Parliament buildings held Palestinian flags and let balloons fly in the sky in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, reported the Reuters news agency.

Protesters chant slogans during a May Day rally in Athens , on Wednesday, May 1, 2024. Palestinian and pro-Palestinian protesters joined the rallies, one group chanting “Victory to the Intifada” as they carried a giant Palestinian flag past parliament. Others displayed banners in support of protesting students in the United States. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

“It was our duty not to forget that genocide as the (Labor) day calls,” said Marianna Tsagari, 48, who joined the demonstration. She didn’t mention that the terrorists raided Israel in October, 2023, killing more than 1200 and slaughtering babies.

Israel said it’s not conducting a genocide and that the terrorists are hiding among civilians in the Gaza Strip, which has been blockaded although some humanitarian aid is being allowed in, including food and fuel.

The Greek workers wanted raises after years of pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions in austerity measures attached to three international bailouts of 326

Greece’s economy has been growing at nearly twice the Eurozone rate in recent years and the country last year regained investment grade status after 13 years of being rated junk bonds and foreign investors now returning.

Greece’s economy grew almost 6 percent in 2023 on the back of record tourism bringing in more than 20.6 billion euros ($21.99 billion) but little of that has trickled back down to workers and households.

The New Democracy government has twice hiked the minimum wage and given pay raises to public workers and higher pension benefits and released a plan for a performance-based bonus of up to 15 percent of annual salaries in 2025.

But state workers said it’s a pittance and hasn’t made up for a 40 percent drop in their salaries during the crisis, although Parliament workers were exempted from pay cuts after threatening to strike.

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