If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

GREECE REVOLT - Greeks worn down by drumbeat of strikes

As austerity bites and international lenders demand higher taxes and more cuts to salaries and pensions, ordinary Greeks are being worn down by the daily grind of strikes and protests that have come to punctuate their lives.

Unions highlight the damage they say is being done to the Greek economy by rounds of austerity measures, including an unpopular property tax as well as higher drinks, tobacco and car prices, while the government says strikes will stall recovery.

"It's ordinary people suffering, not the parliament's 300 lawmakers," said Cleo Soulioti, 54 on Syntagma Square, the epicenter of protest which witnessed bloody clashes in June. "We are all angry but it's not right to take it out on each other."

Air travelers to and from Greece have endured delays of up to four hours due to go-slows by air traffic controllers. Tourists have been forced to replan their excursions because of wildcat work stoppages.

"It's normal that people are fed up, we want them to understand," railway unionist Dinos Sourmelis told Reuters. "We are not fighting for ourselves, we are also fighting for them and our children's future."

Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos's news conference on Tuesday to explain Greece's commitment to belt-tightening measures to reassure the international lending community was interrupted by irate ministry officials inside and noisy protesters outside the building.


On Wednesday, taxi drivers, city tram and bus drivers, tax officials, and customs officers will stage action with hospital doctors striking the next day.

But nationwide strikes by public and private sector unions on October 5 and 19 could be the real flashpoints.

"The Greek society's tolerance is being tested," said Takis Theodorikakos, head of GPO pollsters.

The big demonstrations by the ADEDY and GSEE unions, which represent 2.5 million people or half the Greek workforce, are most likely to act as lightning rods for deep-felt discontent and anger with Venizelos's debt strategy.

Thousands of small businesses and retail shops have shut down since the crisis broke out in 2009. Consumption in the debt-laden country, which faces its third straight year of recession, has dropped significantly but transport strikes have also been a factor in shuttering up businesses.

"When we opened less than a year ago, we didn't expect it to be like this day after day," said 28-year-old pharmacy employee Irene Stefanatou, on Tuesday.

"We can't work like this. There is no business. People avoid coming to the center and when they want to come, transport is on strike," she said as a small march by transport workers passed.

Taxis staged a 19-day nationwide strike in the summer, disrupting tourism, the debt-strapped country's biggest revenue earner, and stretching the patience of a nation which is used to and usually sympathetic to industrial action.

One big concern is whether the disruption could bring with it extreme consequences.

About 100 people were injured during clashes between protesters and riot police on June 29 and 30, but many vividly remember the unrest of May last year when three bank employees were killed during a petrol bomb attack.

Continue reading - Reuters - Greeks worn down by drumbeat of strikes

Thousands protest property tax in Greece

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