Greece’s two major unions called on Thursday for a 48-hour walkout over a new package of austerity measures, agreed by Greek political leaders in exchange for a new European Union (EU)/International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout, a union official said.
The General Confederation of Labour (GSEE), the main private sector union, and the Confederation of Civil Servants (ADEDY), representing 2.5 million workers, half the total workforce in Greece said they would hold a two-day strike on Friday and Saturday.
Civil servants have borne the brunt of austerity measures since 2010, suffering wage, bonus and pension cuts.
According to the program some 15,000 civil servants are to be cut in 2012. Some 10,000 were already cut in 2011, and by 2015 the government plans to slash 150,000 public sector workers.
The vice-president of ADEDY said the cuts would have far-reaching effects.
“The new measures that have been agreed upon between the coalition government and the troika are going to apply to workers and to society. They foresee the demeaning of Greek society so that it will reach the level of a third world country concerning the issue of workers’ rights, whilst at the same time benefits are being given to bankers and large businesses,” said Ilias Vrettaikos.
He said the union was also demanding immediate elections as the coalition government had not been elected by the people.
“The coalition government has no political or legal right to pass these measures. We demand immediate elections,” Vrettaikos said.
Public Power Company (PPC) Union members also took to the streets of Athens on Thursday in protest at the planned austerity measures.
Holding red flags and a giant banner which read “We Resist”, demonstrators marched towards the Greek parliament.
Union members oppose the privatization of state branches of the public power sector and PPC member, Thanassis Raptis, said politicians had no right to sell the company.
“This doesn’t just affect me. It affects the whole nation. This is a company that belongs to the people. It’s been paid for by the Greek people, and nobody can sell this company,” he said.
Power company employees have witnessed wage cuts and job losses which began in 2010 due to the austerity program aimed at reducing the country’s debt.
The unions said several demonstrations would be staged in Athens over the next few days, culminating outside parliament on Sunday, when the government hopes to pass the bailout agreement.