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Society

Worn-Out Greeks Strike Over Low Wages, Skyrocketing Prices

ATHENS –  Overwhelmed by what’s left of the COVID-19 pandemic, soaring prices for everything from food to fuel and low wages, public sector workers walked off the jobs in a 24-hour general strike on April 6.

That brought subways, trams and trains to a halt and saw ferries tied up in port but buses were running for 12 hours starting at 9 a.m. the drivers not giving full participation to the action.

Health workers shout slogans as they march during a 24-hour nationwide strike in central Athens, Greece, Wednesday, April 6, 2022.  (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

State-run hospitals were treating emergency cases only as health care workers joined the strike, called by the country’s two main umbrella unions for public and private sector workers.

They are demanding salary hikes to deal with jumping prices, especially for energy which has seen the cost of electricity go up 189 percent in a 12-month period and a 24 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) still applied on food, which the New Democracy government is considering cutting.

Protest marches were planned in the capital and other main cities, a frequent tactic that has failed to move any government to meet demands but gives workers a day off, no report whether they’ll be paid for not working.

“For the last 14 years, workers have been bearing the burden of a deep crisis that affected the income and the lives of everyone,” said the General Confederation of Greek Workers union (GSEE.)

Health workers shout slogans as they march during a 24-hour nationwide strike in central Athens, Greece, Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

That was in reference to a financial and austerity crisis from 2010-18 that required three international bailouts of 326 billion euros ($355.75 billion) to keep the economy from collapsing and brought big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and firings, and also saw scores of thousands flee the country for elsewhere.

“The years have passed and the crisis is deepening, the burdens remain, rights are shrinking. We are striking and demanding the government take measures here and now,” GSEE said, putting more pressure on the government that has provided subsidies during COVID lockdowns and now to deal with energy bills.

Greece has seen increasing prices, particularly in energy and certain supermarket goods such as flour, in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, those two countries producing many of the world’s main foodstuffs.

Demonstrators use whistles as they march during a 24-hour nationwide strike in Athens, Greece, Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Demonstrators take part in a protest during a 24-hour nationwide strike in Athens, Greece, Wednesday, April 6, 2022.  (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
The entrance of Acropolis metro station is closed during a 24-hour nationwide strike in Athens, Greece, Wednesday, April 6, 2022.  (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
A seaman stands next to docked ferries during a 24-hour nationwide strike at Piraeus port, near Athens, Greece, Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

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

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