Greece: General Strike Before Austerity Vote
Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Athens as a two-day general strike begins ahead of a tight Parliamentary vote on a new round of austerity measures.
The 13.5bn euro (£10.8bn) package of proposed cuts and tax increases includes a rise in the retirement age to 67 as well as pensions being slashed by up to 15% for workers whose pots are worth more than 1,000 euros (£800) per month.
The effects of the strike - the third general strike in six weeks organised by the country's two main unions - are being felt in both the public and private sectors with at hundreds of thousands failing to show for work.
Many schools, banks and local government offices have been closed while scores of flights have been cancelled.
Public bus workers in the capital and taxi drivers as well as metro, tram and train workers also walked out, paralysing traffic in the capital.
Ferry lines were also crippled, as ships linking to Greece's islands remained docked.
The government argues that the strikes only make the country's dire economic situation more perilous.
It needs the austerity bill to pass through parliament to secure crucial international aid totalling 31.5bn euros (£25bn) and prevent the debt-laden nation from potentially defaulting later this month.
According to EU economic and monetary affairs commissioner Olli Rehn, the international lenders and Greece are on track to reach a deal to unfreeze the next tranche of loans at a meeting of eurozone finance ministers on November 12.
The EU, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund demanded more savings in return for further financial support.
The austerity package, which was put to the Greek parliament late on Monday, would also include salary cuts for academics, hospital doctors, judges, diplomats and members of the armed forces.
Greek MPs are due to hold an emergency vote on Wednesday with opposition critics saying the measures will only deepen the country's five-year recession.
It is understood unions are lobbying sceptics of the plan in a bid to force a defeat on the government - a nightmare scenario for the pro-euro camp which could force the country back to the drachma.
But there is support among the public for the austerity plan as many admit there may not be a better solution.
Yannis Levas, who works in a recruitment company aimed at finding jobs for Greeks abroad, called the measures "a double-edged sword".
"On the one side they must not go through, on the other they must. There is always that dilemma if we will return or not to the drachma," he said.
what do you think?
Well done Greece. Bring the country to its knees- power to the people
This is what happens when you put people in the position where they have nothing to lose. The Greek people need a few very well-publicised carrots, and a lot less stick.
Thats what happens when the people don't pay taxes - The country goes bankrupt. The Greeks think it is their right to avoid taxes, and thats why they don't have credit cards and bank accounts - so that the Government don't know how much they have and how much they earn. Everything is CASH - CASH.
wise words indeed martin. british governments would do well to heed it ,
Reject austerity. Reject capitalism. Reject corrupt politicians. Support the people of Greece, they are not the enemy
Good. And good luck to the co-ordinated general strikes in two weeks time in Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain. And let's have one here. As Greek workers are at a sharper stage of their struggle, they should start working towards actually taking power from the failed capitalist class, because it was the Greek capitalst millionaires who were not paying their taxes, not ordianry working people.
Not what a recent BBC documentary puported Chris. every Tom D ick and Stavros is into tax avoidance.
tb.. do not the employers deduct the tax at source like they do over here ? it has never been made clear how the greek workers pay their tax ......... has it ? or is it like britain where only the top people are allowed to find a convenient loophole to withhold paying their tax??
Spot on, Leslie. Only the wealthy know how to really dodge taxes. The poor and working class have it deducted at source. Funny how some Tories ALWAYS slate the BBC when it suits them, yet when it produces a 'documentary' that fits their needs they quote it as a valuable source.
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'bout time we stood up before Osbourne and said No More
Southern Europeans eh?
Yes, they're militant, and fighting back. We can learn a lot from them.
tens of thousands ? must be alot more than that who could have been on the streets. As the item says ' there is support among the public for the austerity plan as many admit there may not be a better solution ' There isn't.
Pre austerity - around 600 professions in Greece received 95% of full pay as a pension. Available at 50 years old due to the perilous nature of their work, one example is hairdressing.