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A week of strikes before Christmas

17 December 2012 / 20:12:05  GRReporter
2034 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

Days before Christmas, protests in Athens are not subsiding. Pharmacists, hospital doctors and their colleagues, who are associated with the National Health System, are on strike. The municipal employees' strike is also continuing and these were joined today by Postbank's employees.

Christmas carols are already being heard on the streets, festive decorations shine in shop-windows, and the air brings the aroma of cookies and cinnamon from the pastry shops. But waste containers are beginning to overflow and no one knows when waste trucks will take these away, after yesterday's meeting of the municipal employees union announced a new 48-hour strike.

According to Chairman of the union, Themis Balasopoulos, the Ministry refused to meet with representatives of the organisation. Unionists argue that Minister Antonis Manitakis's promises that employees will be transferred to other departments, and won't be fired, are not sincere, since "no civil service has undergone inspections for the identification of gaps and needs."

At the same time, pharmacists declared war on Minister of Health Andreas Likourendzos, who announced that full exemption of pharmacies' working time and personal contracts with the National Health System will be introduced. The strike will continue until tomorrow. At the same time, pharmacists are still not providing free medicines to those insured in the National Health System. This creates serious problems mainly for the majority of the elderly, who are struggling to pay for their medications.

Moreover, as of today, they are forced to also pay both for their examinations and tests. A report by the trade union of doctors and laboratories associated with the National Health System states that "in 2012 alone, the system owed doctors and laboratories more than 300 million euro. Doctors have not received any money for the examinations they have carried out since August, and laboratories - since 1 June." According to doctors, the total liabilities of the National Health System to all associated with it amounted to over 1 billion euro.

A massive protest was also held by Postbank employees, who are against the government's plans to privatise the institution. With slogans like: "They want to sell the money-box of the Greek people," some 500 people gathered in front of the bank and held a protest against the Ministry of Finance.

Protesters, some of whom had brought their children with them, were shouting slogans against the government's policy, President of the Bank of Greece George Provopoulos and Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras. Then, they continued to the Parliament building where they ended their protest which blocked the centre of Athens for more than three hours.

On Wednesday, the public sector will go on a 24-hour strike. The trade union of workers in the private sector GSEE will also join the strike. It has announced a three-hour work stoppage. According to the leadership of the trade union of workers in the public sector ADEDY, the government has decided to lay off 150,000 workers by 2015, since this is one of the conditions in the Memorandum of Economic Assistance.

Trade union's Chairman Costas Tsikrikas said that the presence of too many civil servants in Greece is a myth and determined the policy implemented by the government as "a criminal policy cultivating fascism." The trade union said it would continue the protests.

In this spirit, employees of the state railway OSE announced a 48-hour strike on Wednesday and Thursday. They are protesting against the privatisation of a department for trains' maintenance. The strike will not only hinder passengers from travelling by train, but those who have chosen to travel by plane as well, since the underground will not be able to reach the airport by the over-ground railway part of the route.

Tags: Society strikes employees in the public sector privatisations
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