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Greece will celebrate Christmas with bins brimming over with waste

12 December 2012 / 18:12:09  GRReporter
1892 reads

Victoria Mindova

The trade union of municipal workers from across Greece has announced a 48-hour strike on Thursday and Friday this week. Over the weekend, the workers decided unanimously to boycott the services provided by mayoralties and municipalities and not to go to work. On Monday and Tuesday, there will be a second 48-hour strike, while on Wednesday (19 December) mayoral and municipal workers will join the large protest of the trade union of public sector employees (ADEDY).

During the strikes, the administrations of local government organizations will not work. Cleaning workers will be absent from work too and kindergartens and nurseries will remain closed.

Strikes are expected to continue after Christmas if the workers’ demands are not met. They protest against the decision of the Ministry of Administrative Reform to remove 800 municipal permanent workers for one year. Under the government programme, these workers will receive 75% of their monthly salary for a period of one year. After that period, if the administration has not found a new position for them, they will be definitely dismissed.

To show their dissatisfaction with the government decision, the mayoral trade unionists organised a protest meeting, which later turned into a procession. Less than 500 people set off from the offices of ОПЕ-ОТА to the building of the Ministry of Administrative Reform to block it and request a personal meeting with Minister Antonis Manitakis.

To prevent possible unrest in front of the Ministry, Athens police had blocked the access to the building housing the office of Minister Manitakis. Once they saw that their way was blocked, the unionists made a quick change of the protest plan. Instead of stopping at the two armoured police buses, they rushed to the barriers that were surrounding the parliament building, tore down the iron fence tied with steel cables and headed to the service entrance of the National Assembly, which the deputies use. Two detachments of the riot forces managed to block their way without direct clashes.

Once the news that municipal workers had entered the courtyard of parliament by force reached the parliamentary lobbies, the deputy of the opposition SYRIZA party, Dimitris Stratoulis, appeared among the protesters. He played the role of a mediator and assisted the members of the union to submit their request to parliament. SYRIZA totally opposes the policy the tripartite coalition government pursues. The radical left became the second most popular party in the summer elections with its anti-memoranda policy and it supports all protests against the fiscal consolidation, the cuts in spending and the reforms of the public sector.

The meeting of municipal trade unionists in parliament gave no result, but they threatened that this would not stop them from holding active strike actions. "We are determined that we will continue fighting in order to prevent our colleagues from being removed as requested by the lenders' Troika and the disgusting coalition government," said the president of ОПЕ-ОТА ,Themis Balasopoulos.

Greece has pledged to cut 150 thousand public sector workers by the end of 2015. This is part of the recovery plan under the bailout agreement with Europe and the International Monetary Fund. So far, the financial aid has provided around 150 billion euro to fund the deficit and the country's lenders have written off a total of 140 billion euro of its foreign debt. The efforts being made to date aim to keep the Mediterranean country in the euro zone and to reform its domestic economy in order for it to start producing primary budget surpluses and to cover its needs without excessive external borrowing.

The lack of severe budget cuts at the beginning of the programme has led to a deep recession. It has affected negatively the results of the recovery programme and now Greece has to bear the burden of another increase in taxes and excise duties in order to achieve the goals set. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate rose from 9% in 2009 to 26% in 2012, the main victims being the private sector workers.

On the other side of the barrier are public workers, public enterprises, mayoralties and municipalities. "Last night I was told I would be removed from the job. I am sad and I am afraid as I do not know how my life will continue," an employee at Ilioupouly Municipality told GRReporter. "I'm middle-aged and no one wants to hire people in my age group. I hope that the ministry will reconsider its decision and it will not dismiss us," she said.

Tags: SocietyStrikesMunicipal workersGreeceCrisisProtestsAthens
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