Debt-plagued Greece has faced a new wave of labour discontent since the government’s new austerity plan was introduced last week in an effort to trim its ballooning deficit and shore up the support of skeptical markets.
The plan sparked a wave of strikes and protests from labour unions whose reaction to the initial austerity measures announced earlier this year had been muted. Thursday’s strike, which shut down all public services and schools, left ferries tied up at port and suspended all news broadcasts for the day, was the second walkout in a week.
Under pressure from the European Union to show fiscal improvement, the government announced an additional $65 billion in savings through public sector salary cuts, hiring and pension freezes and consumer tax hikes.
The government says the tough cuts are its only way to dig Greece out of a crisis that has hammered the common European currency and alarmed international markets — grossly inflating the loan-dependent country’s borrowing costs.
But unions say ordinary Greeks are being called to pay a disproportionate price for past fiscal mismanagement. “They are trying to make workers pay the price for this crisis,” said Yiannis Panago-poulos, leader of Greece’s largest union, the GSEE. “These measures will not be effective and will throw the economy into deep freeze.”
Journalists, teachers, state hospital doctors and air traffic controllers are among those striking, while officers from the police, fire service and coast guard plan to join protest rallies scheduled later.