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Unemployment reached 23.6 per cent, protests do not stop

13 September 2012 / 18:09:56  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

Unemployment reached 23.6 per cent in the second quarter, the National Statistical Service of Greece reported. The number of unemployed increased by 1 per cent compared with the number of people who had registered in the first three months of 2011. The comparison with the same period last year is significant: The number of unemployed Greeks is 44.2 per cent or 1,168,761 people more. All are former employees in the private sector. So far, public workers, who are the most active participants in the protests, have reported no dismissal or a month without a salary.

At the same time, the decision of the leaders of the governing coalition to preserve this "sacred cow" of Greek society will inevitably lead to new cuts in wages, pensions and social benefits.

The epicentre of today's protests was the Ministry of Finance, where representatives of different social groups had gathered. Protesters in wheelchairs were among them.

"We gathered here today to protest against the cuts in benefits for the disabled people. The measures they are preparing are a reduction of the percentage of our non-taxable income, cuts of all benefits and an attitude as if we are all supposed disabled.

The people who really are in this condition have significant daily needs and our daily life is getting harder each passing day. Our personal dignity and the dignity of our families is what bother us.  This is the reason to be here and to protest against the introduction of these severe measures," the president of the Thessaloniki branch of the Pan-Hellenic Union of Disabled People George Avgoustidis told GRReporter.

He explained that after the revelation of cases of bogus disabled in various parts of Greece, the National Organization for Health Care Provision and the centres for certification of disability have taken over the counting procedure of disabled people. "It takes a long time to announce the final decision, sometimes as long as a year. During this period, the disabled person remains without the benefit he or she needs to live. It includes medical supplies, physiotherapy and of course, food," he added.

Members of the federation of blind people in Greece joined the disabled a little later. With a major slogan "Hands off benefits," they demanded a meeting with the leadership of the ministry, which, however, did not take place today and was scheduled for Tuesday next week.

Members of the Greek farming association protested a few metres away from them. With cowbells in their hands, they presented their demands for funding in order to buy food for their animals and for deferral in the payment of their overdue debts to banks.

"If we do not get help, we will have serious problems with breeding the animals. Our production has dropped by 50 per cent and the number of animals in the herds has been decreasing. Stockbreeders are the most aging workforce in Greece; young people do not want to deal with it. We want the government to give us the European funds that we are entitled to in order to be able to buy food for the animals for the coming winter," one of the protesting stockbreeder said, who had come to the protest from Crete.

For the second day in a row, riot forces had blocked the avenue in front of parliament for fear of clashes.

At the same time, unions of workers in the public and private sector GSEE and ADEDY have announced a Pan-Hellenic strike on 26 September, which will be against the new austerity measures related to cuts in wages and pensions, and the change in labour legislations and social insurance. Protests for the days of the parliamentary debates related to the changes are being prepared in parallel.


Tags: SocietyProtestsInvalidsBlind peopleBenefitsStockbreedersStrikeTrade unions
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