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article imageGreek pensioners and public workers protest in Athens

By Ken Hanly     Mar 21, 2014 in Politics
Athens - Greek pensioners took to the streets in Athens during the second day of a 48-hour strike to protest new layoffs and demand a free public health care system.
The pensioners, on the first day of spring, March 20, joined a growing mass of Greeks protesting the poor economic conditions in the country and the demands of the troika of international lenders, the European Union, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This source puts the number of protesting pensioners at about 2,000.
One pensioner said: "My pension is not enough, I am waiting for payday so that I can survive, and that’s what our life has been reduced to.”
After seven months of talks, the troika agreed to grant Athens $14 billion U.S. in loans but protesters claim that the public has not been informed sufficiently of details of the conditions of the loan. The government claims that there will be a “six-month transitional period” before the austerity conditions of the loan kick in. However, thousands of civil servants had already been laid off and thousands more were to follow soon. Since 2010 the national health, education, and local government budgets have been slashed by 40 percent as have been wages and pensions. Greece has been in recession for seven years consecutively.
Many protests are by workers in the public sector including teachers: Public sector employees scuffled with riot police in Athens on the second day of their strike as they approached the private office of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Minister of Administrative Reform, which was occupied by protesting high school teachers. Many photos can be found here. The 48-hour strike was called by the civil servants’ umbrella union ADEDY. It began on Wednesday Public sector employees protested dismissals in their sector resulting from demands of the troika of lenders as part of numerous cost-cutting measures.
The social safety net in Greece has been left in tatters through years of economic decline. A report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development notes: “The social protection system in Greece was ill-prepared for the economic and social crisis, Before the crisis, Greece devoted nearly 30 percent of government outlays to social transfers, but much of this spending went to relatively well-off households. Since 2007/8, total spending on social protection and health fell by some 18 percent in real terms, compared to a 14 percent real-term increase in the average OECD country”. The report showed inequality in 2010 in Greece was fourth highest among OECD members. While the reduction in funds spent on social needs hurt the poor most, aside from Italy, Greece is the only EU member that does not have a nationwide minimum income benefit.
More about greek austerity budget, troika demands on greece, recession in Greece
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