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Greek strikers confronted with the riot police

By • Feb 18th, 2010 • Category: News & Analysis

Guardian: 10.21am:
Greek riot police have fired teargas at dozens of protesters in central Athens.
“Officers fired teargas when garbage collectors tried to drive their trucks through a police cordon to join the main march,” a police official told Reuters. He said some protesters responded by throwing stones, but the incident was quickly over.

Daily News: Greek customs workers extend strike to protest austerity measures
ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Greek customs workers announced 48-hour rolling strikes Thursday, the day that was supposed to be the last of a three-day strike to protest government austerity measures designed to pull Greece out of a debt crisis.
The customs strike has affected imports and exports, with fuel supplies in particular beginning to run short. The workers’ main union called three 48-hour rolling strikes that will close customs offices until next Wednesday, when Greek workers across the country will walk off the job in a general strike.
“We have run out of everything over the past three days,” said Dionyssis Mermingas, who runs a gas station in Athens. “We will be empty until next Thursday.”
Greek public sector workers strike as spectre of bailout looms
Greek prime minister George Papandreou has already faced down protests. Photograph: Virginia Mayo/AP
Public sector workers in Greece have clashed with police during a nationwide one-day strike in protest at the austerity measures being implemented to try to address the country’s financial crisis.
Riot police fired tear gas at protesters in Athens, according to local reports, after refuse collectors tried to team up with other strikers by driving their trucks through a police cordon. Hundreds more people gathered at Syntagma Square in the centre of the capital, some waving banners or beating drums, to voice their opposition to the spending cuts.
“It’s a war against workers and we will answer with war, with constant struggles until this policy is overturned,” Christos Katsiotis, a representative of a communist-party affiliated union, told the Associated Press.
A demonstration is planned outside the Greek parliament later today.
The prime minister, George Papandreou, who is in Paris to discuss the economic crisis with French president Nicolas Sarkozy, has already faced down a protest by farmers demanding higher subsidy payments who staged tractor blockades on Greek highways for nearly three weeks.
It emerged last night that Greece’s European partners may be close to agreeing a bailout, with German officials saying a deal had been agreed “in principle”. An EU summit in Brussels tomorrow will address the Greek crisis in the hope of containing the growing threat to the eurozone.
Non-urgent hospital appointments have been cancelled, and schools across Greece will remain closed. Air traffic control staff are also taking part in the dispute, meaning flights in and out of the country will be heavily disrupted. Greece’s largest airline, Aegean, has suspended all its services, while British Airways has cancelled three scheduled flights from Heathrow to Athens.
Union leaders called the action in protest at Papandreou’s plans for spending restraint including cuts in public sector pay and bonuses, and a freeze on hiring new employees.
Ilias Iliopoulos, general secretary of the public sector union ADEDY, accused Papandreou of targeting the wrong people in his efforts to fight the debt crisis that threatens Greece’s financial stability and raises the spectre of contagion across the eurozone.
“They had promised the rich would pay but instead they take the money from the poor,” Iliopoulos said. ADEDY also accused the Greek government of planning “permanent austerity” and “the bankruptcy of employees and pensioners”.
Papandreou, though, had urged civil servants not to strike at a time when European leaders are considering a bailout for Greece. “Our primary duty is to save the economy and to reduce debt while seeking just solutions that protect as much as possible those on lower incomes and the middle class,” he said.
Today’s strike was planned before the Greek government announced its latest cutback measure yesterday – raising the average retirement age from 61 to 63.
Stock markets across Europe rose this morning, buoyed by hopes that a rescue package for Greece will be agreed when European leaders meet tomorrow.
Further strikes are planned for later this month.


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