General strike paralyses Greece

General strike paralyses Greece

Greece has been brought to a standstill as angry workers stage a general strike over planned austerity measures.

All flights are grounded and no trains or ferries are running as transport workers join public sector staff who began a 48-hour strike on Tuesday. Thousands have taken part in rallies in Athens and police have clashed with some protesters outside parliament.

Spending cuts and tax rises are planned in return for a 110bn euro (£95bn) rescue package for Greece's economy. Parliament is to vote on the measures by the end of the week. Measures include wage freezes, pension cuts and tax rises. They aim to achieve fresh budget cuts of 30bn euros over three years, with the goal of cutting Greece's public deficit to less than 3% of GDP by 2014. It currently stands at 13.6%.

The general strike is the third to hit Greece in as many months.Meanwhile, the German parliament has begun considering the bail-out plan for Greece. Chancellor Angela Merkel urged MPs to back the emergency loan package agreed by European finance ministers. It requires Germany to pay the largest proportion of the loans. "Quite simply, Europe's future is at stake," she said. The EU has agreed to provide 80bn euros (£69bn) in funding - of which around 22bn euros would come from Germany - while the rest will come from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Flights in and out of Greece stopped at midnight, and trains and ferries were not running. Schools, hospitals, and many offices are expected to remain shut. A mass rally took place in central Athens before protest marches passed through the city, with parliament again the focus of attention. TV images showed police firing teargas at a group of about 50 protesters who tried to reach the parliament building.

Tens of thousands of civil servants currently eligible for a lump sum on retirement have submitted their resignations before the measures are passed. The government has appealed to demoralised staff in the military, police, schools and hospitals not to retire, fearing the surge in demand for benefits could further drain treasury resources.

Union leaders say the cuts target low-income Greeks. "There are other things the [government] can do, before taking money from a pensioner who earns 500 euros (£430) a month," Spyros Papaspyros, leader of the public servants' union ADEDY, told Greek private television.

Athens-based journalist Christos Michaelides told the BBC that anger would boil over if the planned measures fail to work. "There is a big fear in the whole of society - a sense of injustice in most of the measures," he said. "There is a fear that things could get very, very ugly if people don't feel that what they are doing now, in these austerity measures, is going to be worthwhile."

On Tuesday, several thousand teachers and students marched to parliament carrying black flags and banners. The demonstration was largely peaceful but some scuffles broke out near the parliament building. The bail-out deal is designed to prevent Greece from defaulting on its massive debt. However, it must first be approved by some parliaments in the 15 other eurozone countries.
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou has said the austerity cuts involve "great sacrifices".

Posted By

Leon
May 5 2010 11:11

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taxikipali
May 5 2010 13:50

Thank you for the post. I will provide an overview of today's protest later today once the situation is clearer so as not to spread rumors and half-truths. This is so especially as the reporting of three people dead as a result of molotov coktails which is broadcasted in the international media is still disputed in greece. If this is indeed the case we are before an unprecedented tragedy in the country whose consequences could be truly historical.

Salvoechea
May 5 2010 15:19

Be careful. Remember Caso Scala in Barcelona in 1978. That helped to destroy anarchist influence in the society.

http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caso_Scala