Greek Labor Unions Warn of Additional Protests over Austerity Policies
Greek labor unions warned of additional protests over government austerity policies after Wednesday's 24-hour nationwide general strike.
But local analysts doubt the outcome will change things because the debt-ridden country is under increasing international pressure to face its financial crisis and fewer protesters are participating in demonstrations.
Approximately 10,000 protesters took part Wednesday in the main march of the two umbrella labor unions of public and private sector employees ADEDY and GSEE, according to estimations.
The unions called on the socialist government to change course and put an end to cutbacks on salaries, pensions, tax hikes and high unemployment rates and recession to address the debt crisis.
Wednesday's demonstrations ended in front of the parliament building amidst minor scuffles between youths and police, as public services and mass transportation across the country were paralyzed in an effort to pressure the government to alter policies.
No injuries were reported during the marches. But an Associated Press reporter saw at least three demonstrators injured and another five detained by police, while dozens of black-clad anarchists smashed bus stops, set rubbish bins on fire and smashed a shop window.
"We have had enough. Take your memorandum with EU and International Monetary Fund and leave the country," chanted protesters, referring to last May's aid package Athens secured in exchange of harsh fiscal adjustment and reforms measures to escape default and return to growth by 2014.
Labor union members raised banners with slogans such as "Thieves get out" and "We will not allow the sale of Greece" in protest of a new round of multi- billion euro spending cuts expected to be ratified by the parliament next week, as Greece has missed key targets in efforts to slash the budget deficit and address the crisis.
"From the outbreak of the crisis in late 2009 we told the government there is an alternative way out, without adding unbearable burden on the average Greek citizen. We can not afford more sacrifices which lead to dead end, more poverty and despair. We will continue the struggle to the end," said General Secretary of ADEDY Ilias Iliopoulos, speaking to Xinhua.
But local political analysts, such as Dimitra Garantzioti, expressed doubts about the outcome of dditional protests and strikes. Wednesday's mobilization was the second general strike this year. Last year Greece was hit by a stronger wave of protests and strikes with up to 100,000 demonstrators hitting the streets of Athens.
And as the number of protesters drops, the space for maneuvers for the government for possible milder policies narrows. EU-IMF auditors who have started a regular inspection of Greek finances this week ahead of the release of the fifth tranche of aid to Athens, are said to be adding more pressure for speedier reforms, such as a bold multi-billion-euro (multi-billion-U.S.-dollar) privatization program.
Scenarios of a new rescue aid in exchange of more difficult terms for Greece follow over the past few days the rumors of a possible restructure of the Greek debt or exit from euro zone. Greek officials strongly dismiss all scenarios, insisting on the full implementation of the original plan to exit the crisis.
In any case, analysts forecast that average Greek citizens will have to brace themselves for more tough times to come and longer austerity, because the options available are limited and efforts to boost development to exit the crisis take time.
Based on the smaller number of protesters hitting the streets, they point out that even though most of Greeks do not admit it, they have realized that despite protests, they will have to go through more sacrifices to exit the crisis.
Presently, Greece is shielded from insolvency by a 110 billion euro (158 billion U.S. dollar) package of rescue loans in a 2010-2013 program from its European Union partners and International Monetary Fund.