Op-Ed: General strike held in Greece to protest austerity cuts

Posted Nov 6, 2013 by Ken Hanly
Greek unions held a 24-hour general strike on Wednesday (Nov. 6) in opposition to any additional austerity cuts. The strikes are taking place as the Greek government holds talks with representatives of creditors, the troika.
Protests in Athens
Protests in Athens
The strikes hit public transport, including train and ferry services. State-run schools were also shut and even hospitals and ambulance service operated only with emergency staff. At airports dozens of flights were cancelled or had to be rescheduled after air traffic controllers walked off the job for three hours to show support for the strike.
A port workers statement said: "Workers, pensioners and the unemployed are going through an endless nightmare, The government and the troika are destroying this country." The "troika" are the European Commission, European Central Bank, and the International Monetary fund (IMF). The troika had met yesterday with the Greek Finance minister, Yannis Stournaris.
Unions fear that the troika will demand even more wage and pension cuts, more cuts to public sector jobs, and further privatization. Since 2010, Greece is estimated to have received $315 billion in loans. The terms demanded radical cuts to pensions, job cuts, and privatization.
The job cuts alone have helped produce an unemployment rate of 27.6 per cent, leaving 1.37 million Greeks out of work. The Greek statistics service reports that Greeks are about 40 per cent poorer than five years ago with the strict loan measures not producing growth as promised. The Greek debt is still 160 per cent of GDP. Some claim that Greece may need a third bailout of about $1.35 billion in 2014. The present talks are attempting to calculate what the Greek budget gap will be. Creditors think that it is about five times as large as the Greek government believes.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' coalition government has rejected any additional across-the-board wage, pension cuts, or tax increases to fill any budget gaps. Samaras said in a TV interview: "Society cannot take it, the economy cannot take it, and it is not even required by the country's current financial situation." The troika may not agree. Greece is now in its sixth year of recession.Estimates are that 12,000 participated in two marches on the parliament in Athens Protests in Thessaloniki, Greece's second-largest city attracted about 10,000.