Greek workers strike over austerity measures

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Greek prime minister George Papandreou

Workers in Greece have gone on strike in protest against the government's second round of austerity packages. Greek prime minister George Papandreou announced €28 billion in cuts Monday; loans worth up to €155 billion from the European Union and International Monetary Fund depend on the measures passing.

Tens of thousands of workers are planning to march through Athens and five thousand police officers have been brought into the capital to supervise the strike. Most public services in Greece are affected, including hospitals, ambulances, trains, buses, ferries and even air traffic control. The Athens metro will remain open "so as to allow Athenians to join the planned protests in the capital." Thanassis Pafilis, an MP with the Greek Communist Party, said that the budgetary measures "are a massacre for workers' rights," adding, "It will truly be hell for the working man. The strike must bring everything to a standstill."

With a sixteen percent unemployment rate in Greece, between 70 and 80 percent of Greek citizens oppose the cuts. The measures are "tough and in many respects unfair," said Greek finance minister Evangelos Venizelos, but the government continues to push for austerity measures, as failure to secure credit may force the government and banks of Greece to default as early as July on the €380 billion in debt owed to France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, Italy, Switzerland, Japan and Spain.