Greece: general strike by public service workers

Public service workers in Greece have gone on strike, for the second time in two months, to defend their pensions.

Submitted by jef costello on February 13, 2008

The strikes have virtually paralysed the country as workers nation-wide seek to defend their pensions and protest against a government that has broken its promises. The strikers mounted large demonstrations in at least 8 cities across the country including Thessaloniki and Athens, where tens of thousands marched with banners reading "hands off our pension funds" and "the future belongs to the workers."

Disturbances have been reported in Athens, where tear gas was fired into the crowd as minor skirmishes with police broke out.

Striking workers have paralysed ports and the country's transport system. With dock, ferry, rail, metro and bus workers all joining the strikes. Hospitals have been disrupted as staff join protests, and doctors have refused to treat non-emergency cases. News reporting has been affected as state-employed journalists take action, along with construction sites and law courts. Builders, engineers, lawyers and bank workers have also taken action.

Many factory workers have also participated in the strike, and ancient monuments across the country were forced to close as archaeologists walked out.

Greece's two main unions, the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) and the Civil Servants' Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY), have said that demonstrations will continue, with a planned mass march upon parliament on Thursday.

The present government is aiming to 'reform' the Greek pension system concentrating the country's 170-odd pension schemes into 4-6 main funds. The protests are against the potential loss of benefits, increase in contributions and the raising of the retirement age. The governement came into power promising to respect the status quo for all three but appears to be planning to break those promises.

The government is currently being rocked by a sex scandal that led to the suicide of a minister and has been reduced to a single-vote majority in parliament.