General strike in Greece over new budget cuts
Greece’s leading unions launched Thursday a general strike that shut down several key sectors in protest over planned new pay cuts and taxes called for by international creditors.
Civil servants, bank staff, merchant seamen, railway workers and state-employed doctors were among professionals taking part in the 24-hour stoppage against the measures, which are scheduled to be approved by lawmakers at the weekend.
“We are reacting to repressive austerity, poverty and destitution… once again we face absurd demands by (Greece’s EU-IMF) creditors,” leading union GSEE said.
Journalists had staged a one-day walkout on Wednesday.
The country’s international creditors — fellow EU states and the International Monetary Fund — want Greece to overhaul its labour legislation to make crippling strikes less likely while also facilitating layoffs.
Also Thursday, official data showed persistently high unemployment figures at 23.1 percent in September, with an increase of some 60,500 jobs compared to a year earlier.
Unions say hidden unemployment is far higher.
A new budget containing around one billion euros ($1.07 billion) from extra taxation on items including cars, fixed telephone service, pay TV, fuel, tobacco, coffee and beer is to be approved by parliament early Sunday.
Public spending on salaries and pensions will also be cut by 5.7 billion euros next year.
Unions are also angry about plans to raise over 2.0 billion euros next year from privatisations, including 1.2 billion euros from the sale of regional airports.
Separate union demonstrations are planned in Athens and major Greek cities later in the day.
Already huge, Greece’s debt after three consecutive bailouts is on course to reach a mammoth 315 billion euros ($334 billion), or around 180 percent of gross domestic output this year, according to the latest EU data.
Greece on Tuesday rejected pressure to extend its painful austerity programme beyond 2018 as part of a deal to bridge differences between the squabbling international creditors.
Those comments came a day after Eurozone lenders approved short-term debt relief measures, but also suggested that the crisis-hit nation should maintain an improbable primary fiscal surplus of 3.5 percent for additional years beyond 2018.
“Some have argued for three years, some for five and some for 10,” Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem told reporters after the talks.
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