Flights are grounded, ships are docked, public transport is paralysed and schools remain resolutely shut – normal life in Greece has ground to halt as public and private sector workers go on a second national strike in two weeks.
Hundreds of riot police were deployed across Athens on Thursday as Greece’s two largest labour unions called on millions of workers to strike against unpopular and painful austerity measures proposed by the government to resolve the country’s acute debt crisis.
Greece’s private sector union GSEE and its public sector sister ADEDY, which represent half of the country’s labour force, have rejected the government’s massive spending cuts and tax hikes announced last week.
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou’s government is struggling to get to grips with the country’s spiralling budget deficit, which amounted to12.7 percent of output last year, and a national debt of nearly 300 billion euros.
EU policymakers, rating agencies and financial markets have welcomed the latest austerity package, but want to see it implemented quickly and smoothly. For that to take place, public support is crucial.
Nathalie Saverias, FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Athens, said national anger at the austerity measures was mounting. “People say they cannot tolerate these measures, which will affect every member of Greek society.”
Public transport was paralysed in Athens Thursday, with no buses or trams running. Only one underground train line was operational in the capital.
Hospitals were manned by skeleton staff and only admitted emergency cases. Schools, hospitals, museums and archaeological sites were also closed for the 24-hour strike.
Even journalists went on strike, with the national news agency ANA stopping its tickers, while newspaper staff took to the streets with the rest.
Tax and rubbish collectors have been on strike since the start of the week.
(Source: France 24)