4 May 2010

Greek unions step up anti-austerity campaign

9:58 pm on 4 May 2010

Trade unionists in Greece are stepping up their campaign aimed at thwarting the austerity programme introduced by the government in return for a $140 billion rescue package.

Civil servants, who are bearing the brunt of the wage and pension cuts, have already begun a 48-hour strike in advance of a nationwide general strike on Wednesday NZ time.

The BBC reports that the austerity measures are being submitted in a draft bill to the Greek parliament and will be voted on by the end of the week. They include:

  • Scrapping bonus payments for public sector workers
  • Capping annual holiday bonuses and axing them for higher earners
  • Banning public sector salary and pension rises for at least three years
  • Increasing VAT from 21% to 23%
  • Raising taxes on fuel, alcohol and tobacco by 10%

They are aimed at achieving fresh budget cuts of 30 billion euros over three years, with the goal of cutting Greece's public deficit to less than 3% of GDP by 2014. It currently stands at 13.6%.

Low-income Greeks 'targeted'

Union leaders say the cuts target low-income Greeks.

"There are other things the [government] can do, before taking money from a pensioner who earns 500 euros ($850) a month," Spyros Papaspyros, leader of the public servants' union ADEDY, told Greek private television.

In other signs of discontent, on Monday a group of teachers forced their way into the main state broadcaster's studios in Athens to protest about education cuts; and about 150 members of the armed forces staged a silent parade to protest at having their bonuses cut.

Early on Tuesday, protesters unfurled banners over the walls of the Acropolis to protest against the austerity measures.