More strikes expected as Greece passes pension reform

Greek unions promise to continue protests against the government's pension reforms, passed on Thursday.

Submitted by Ed on March 23, 2008

The pension reform raises the retirement age for women to 65 and workers in hazardous industries will have to work an extra two years. Many accuse the conservative government of going back on pre-election promises not to cut pension rights.

Wednesday saw 2.5 million workers walk off the job, grounding flights, closing schools, ports and tourist sites as well as bringing public transportation to a standstill. Power was cut, rubbish piled up in the streets and ATMs also ran out of money as electrical, refuse and bank workers all stopped work.

Students in Thessaloniki occupied their university's administration building in the morning, forcing strike breaking employees to walk-out. Electricity in the building was also shut off by the students in solidarity with workers from the public electricity company. Protesters also threw rubbish bags into large shops or banks which had remained open and threw red paint over the Bank of Greece.

In Athens, picket lines formed outside large shops to stop them from opening and there was also a blockade of the Protoporia bookshop by 60 people in support of a courier who had been sacked for participating in the strike. Skirmishes broke out throughout the day between strikers and police who used teargas and rubber bullets against protesters. Over 100,000 people also took part in a rally organised by the GSEE (private sector) and ADEDY (public sector) unions.

Several hundred protesters remained outside parliament throughout much of the evening vote on Thursday, some clashing with police.

Bank workers, teachers and lawyers remained on strike on Friday, while electrical workers at state power company PPC, on strike for more than two weeks, said they will meet later to decide how to continue their action. Bin staff have gone back to work and have started clearing up the mounds of refuse piling up in the streets, though it is estimated that it will take over a week for rubbish levels to return to normal. However, the bin workers' union, POE-OTA, promised it would soon resume strike action.