Greek capital of Athens comes to standstill amid strike

January 12, 2018 2:18 am
Police guard a side exit of the Greek Ministry of Finance in on January 11, 2018, during a protest by All-Workers Militant Front (PAME) unionists against a law submitted to the parliament that includes strike restrictions as part of the Greek austerity measures. (Photo by AFP)
The Athens subway came to a standstill on Friday as Greeks protested against new reforms that parliament is set to approve on January 15 in return for bailout funds, including restrictions on the right to strike.
In the first major industrial upheaval of 2018, the shutdown of the Athens metro, used by some 938,000 commuters daily, caused traffic gridlock in the city of 3.8 million people.
Ships were unable to sail as workers went on strike and state-run hospitals had to rely on reserve staff as doctors walked off the job. More work stoppages were expected on Monday.
The bill pending approval in parliament on Monday would reduce family benefits, introduce a new process for foreclosures on overdue loans, and make it harder to call a strike.
It has outraged many Greeks, who have seen living conditions and incomes plummet since the country first sought international aid to stave off bankruptcy in 2010, and required another two bailouts afterwards.
At present, unions can call strikes with the support of one-third of their members. The new law would raise that to just over 50 percent, which creditors hope would limit the frequency of strikes and improve productivity that lags about 20 percent behind the EU average.
People walk past graffiti of the slogan “Striking is a right” written by All-Workers Militant Front (PAME) unionists at the Greek Finance Ministry in Athens on January 11, 2018, during a protest against a law submitted to the parliament that includes strike restrictions as part of the Greek austerity measures. (Photo by AFP)
PAME, a communist-affiliated union, was scheduled to hold a demonstration in central Athens at midday (1000 GMT) on Friday.
“Blood was shed by generations which came before us to have the right to strike. Now a so-called left wing government is trying to abolish it,” said Nicos Papageorgiou, a 50 year old hotel worker.
Syriza, the dominant party in the government elected in 2015, has its roots in left-wing labor activism.
Papageorgiou and about 200 other PAME members rallied outside the finance ministry on Thursday evening. Earlier in the week, there were angry scenes when some union members burst into the labor ministry, demanding the government rescind the bill.
Protesters shout slogans as they march behind a banner during a against property foreclosure auctions outside a lower court in Athens, on January 10, 2018. (Photo by AFP)
ADEDY, the largest union of public-sector workers, scheduled a work stoppage for Monday.
The government says it needs the reforms to receive tranches of bailout aid. The latest bailout, worth up to 86 billion euros ($104 billion), expires in August. So far has received 40.2 billion euros, and a new tranche is expected to be worth around 4.5 billion euros.
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