Greeks strike, march in protest against austerity

Greece hit by new general strike as jobless rate soars, some 40,000 protest in central Athens

Associated Press
Greeks strike, march in protest against austerity
.

View photo

Members of pro-communist union PAME gather during a protest in Athens, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013. Thousands of anti-austerity demonstrators took to the streets of Athens on Wednesday as unions staged a general strike to protest the government's spending cuts and tax hikes, which some predict will push unemployment to a stunning 30 percent this year. (AP Photo/Kostas Tsironis)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Tens of thousands of anti-austerity demonstrators took to the streets of Athens on Wednesday as unions staged a general strike to protest government spending cuts and tax hikes, which some predict will push unemployment to an alarming 30 percent.

Police said up to 40,000 people were participating in two separate marches in central Athens. Limited clashes broke out when hooded youths threw fire bombs and stones at riot police, who responded with tear gas. No arrests or injuries were immediately reported.

"We are protesting about (reduced) pensions, emergency taxes, the high cost of life," said retired factory worker Kyriakos Anastassiadis.

Unions are pressing for the renewal of binding collective labor contracts, instead of individual deals that allow employers greater leverage in defining salary levels. They are also asking the government to support the crumbling labor market, where roughly 1,000 jobs have been lost daily since 2010.

"The government wants to further lower our salaries and destroy unions," said unionist Vassilis Epicarithis, an aircraft engineer.

The 24-hour nationwide walkout disrupted domestic flights, kept ferries and long-distance trains idle and crippled public services. It was the first general strike of the year, renewing confrontation between labor groups and the conservative-led government that has pursued punishing austerity policies to cut debt — a key condition imposed by international bailout creditors.

State schools and tax offices closed down, public hospitals functioned on emergency staff, court cases were stalled as lawyers walked off the job, and even neighborhood street fruit and vegetable markets were cancelled. Private doctors and dentists also joined the strike.

In Athens, police said about 25,000 people were marching toward Parliament with banners such as "We won't become slaves in the 21st century," in a demonstration organized by the main public and private sector unions. Earlier, some 15,000 members of a Communist Party-affiliated labor union protested peacefully along the same route.

Previous protests have been marred by clashes between riot police and anarchists. Up to 3,000 police officers were on duty for the Athens street rallies.

In the northern city of Thessaloniki, some 17,000 protested peacefully.

Conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has won praise from bailout lenders for pushing through major cost-cutting measures after forming a three party coalition last June.

But a new round of tax increases this year and a surge in unemployment to 27 percent have angered unions, as Greeks battle a rapid increase in poverty during a sixth year of recession.

In recent weeks, the Samaras government has twice used rare emergency powers to force an end to strikes by workers on ferry services and the Athens subway.

"The Greek people have no tolerance left," Ilias Iliopoulos, general secretary of the civil servants union ADEDY, told the AP in an interview ahead of the strike. "For us, the time has come for a major confrontation with the government ... and policies that are taking our country from bad to worse and leading people to poverty and desperation."

Unions are also angry at a government decision to scrap collective wage agreements across the public sector as part of an overhaul of state pay scales that will usher in further salary cuts.

Unemployment is expected to reach 30 percent this year, while national output will contract a further 4.1 percent, according to a study by a government funded research agency published last week. By the end of the year, the Greek economy is forecast to have shrunk 25 percent since 2008, a year before the crisis started.

___

Derek Gatopoulos, Rafael Komminis and Annita Mordachai contributed to this report.

Rates

View Comments (2)

Recommended for You

  • Tycoon buys 30 Rolls-Royces for Macau hotel

    A Hong Kong tycoon has placed the biggest ever order for Rolls-Royce cars, agreeing to buy 30 Phantoms to chauffeur guests at a luxury resort he's building in the global gambling capital of Macau. Stephen Hung's $20 million purchase surpasses the 14 Phantoms bought by Hong Kong's Peninsula Hotel in…

    Associated Press
  • 1 Tip To Lose Belly Fat

    It's Hollywood's Hottest Diet And Gets Rid Of Stubborn Fat Areas Like Nothing Else.

    AdChoicesagoodcooksSponsored
  • Before You Buy Alibaba, Check Out 4 Top China Stocks

    Before You Buy Alibaba, Check Out 4 Top China Stocks While investors gear up for Alibaba Group 's (BABA) hotly anticipated initial public offering, don't forget about other Chinese stocks that are worth keeping an eye on. Today's Young Guns Screen of

    Investor's Business Daily
  • "The Retiree Next Door": How successful retirees stretch their savings

    "The Retiree Next Door": How successful retirees stretch their savingsBy the time she hit her late 40s, Toni Eugenia wasn’t sure she would ever be able to retire. Eugenia, 56, a pharmacy technician who lived in Houston, was nearly $200,000 in debt and

    Yahoo Finance
  • CNBC Anchor Calls Out Fed-Hater Bill Fleckenstein In Startling Shouting Match

    CNBC Bill Fleckenstein of Fleckenstein Capital appeared on CNBC's Futures Now program on Tuesday. Futures Now host Jackie DeAngelis came out swinging, asking Fleckenstein right at the top if he was willing to admit that he had misunderstood monetary policy. Sounding taken aback, Fleckenstein…

    Business Insider
  • Play

    Citi, Bank of America Offer Discounted Mortgages

    Citigroup and Bank of America will offer mortgages at discounted interest rates to help borrowers with low incomes or subprime credit. AnnaMaria Andriotis joins MoneyBeat. Photo: Getty.

    WSJ Live
  • Beanie Babies creator's sentence debated in court

    Beanie Babies creator's sentence debated in court CHICAGO (AP) — Federal prosecutors seeking to put the billionaire creator of Beanie Babies in prison for hiding millions in Swiss bank accounts told appellate court judges Wednesday that the toymaker's sentence of probation threatens to erode the…

    Associated Press
  • Apple to unveil new iPads, operating system on Oct. 21 : report

    The company plans to unveil the sixth generation of its iPad and the third edition of the iPad mini, as well as its operating system OS X Yosemite, which has undergone a complete visual overhaul, the Internet news website said. Trudy Muller, a spokeswoman for Apple, declined to comment. The iPad is…

    Reuters
  • Tired of Living Paycheck to Paycheck?

    New website reveals how to save $1,000's when you're living paycheck to paycheck. See exactly how.

    AdChoices Media ForceSponsored
  • Margaritaville casino owners seek bankruptcy

    The owner of Biloxi's Margaritaville casino has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Tuesday, only hours before a hearing where the landlord aimed to seize the property. The filing by MVB Holding LLC in U.S. Don Dornan, a lawyer for landlord Clay Point LLC, said the company had planned to ask…

    Associated Press
  • Gilead Stock Is Falling On These Drug Setbacks

    Gilead Stock Is Falling On These Drug Setbacks Gilead Sciences (GILD) shares are backsliding Wednesday on news that the patient drop-out rate for hepatitis C drug Sovaldi is quadruple that of clinical trials. In addition, the biotech's Phase 2 study results

    Investor's Business Daily
  • Embraer to sell 50 E-175 jets to Republic in $2.1 billion deal

    Brazil's Embraer SA, the world's third largest commercial planemaker, said on Wednesday it booked a firm order from U.S. The deal, which will be included in Embraer's order book for the third quarter, is valued at $2.1 billion, the planemaker said in a securities filing. The planes will be operated…

    Reuters
  • Here's What Mark Cuban Wishes He Knew About Money In His 20s

    Cuban is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team. Billionaire investor and entrepreneur Mark Cuban is generous with his advice. When we asked him what he wishes he'd known about money in his 20s, he said:

    Business Insider
  • Play

    What the Fed Meeting Means for Bonds

    Janet Yellen & Co. are expected to hint at their timetable for raising interest rates. Here's how investors should prepare ahead of the meeting.

    WSJ Live
  • SHOE COMPANY: Our CEO Just Disappeared And Most Of The Money Is Gone

    "and like that: he's gone." This is an actual headline from a company press release: "CEO and COO disappeared, most of the company's cash missing." (Via FastFT) In a statement, German-based shoe company Ultrasonic said its CFO,  Chi Kwong Clifford Chan, has been unable to reach the company's CEO,…

    Business Insider
  • Best Womens Wrinkle Creams 2014

    Mom reveals simple wrinkle solution that has researchers very excited. Try this free solution today to look and feel years younger.

    AdChoicesBellaLabs.comSponsored
  • Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: AEP, BHP, GE, Incyte, 3M, Tyco, Under Armour and More

    Top Analyst Upgrades and Downgrades: AEP, BHP, GE, Incyte, 3M, Tyco, Under Armour and More Stocks were firm on Wednesday morning ahead of the FOMC meeting outcome. Tuesday’s rally may have sparked higher interest again, and investors are looking for bargains

    24/7 Wall St.
  • Billionaire Investor Says Chinese People Work Harder And Western Companies Could Face Deep Trouble After Alibaba IPO

    Michael Moritz, the chairman of VC firm Sequoia Capital, is a huge fan of Chinese internet companies and reiterated his enthusiasm for the Chinese market in an interview with The Wall Street Journal Wednesday. The billionaire investor described the Alibaba IPO as a “major landmark event” that is as…

    Business Insider
  • Gold loses luster on Fed; Barclays cuts forecast

    Barclays cuts gold forecasts, sees increasingly bearish backdrop Bloomberg MA MB MC MD ME SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — Gold prices dipped Wednesday on concerns about a stronger dollar ahead of the Federal Reserve policy statement and in response to Barclays lowering its gold forecast.

    MarketWatch
  • Boeing may have outfoxed Musk, but it could have bigger problems

    Elon Musk is arguably one of the greatest entrepreneurial minds of the 21st Century, but he was outsized an old school aerospace giant. Boeing won the bulk of NASA’s contract for a space taxi.  One of the other companies vying for the deal is SpaceX, the company headed by Tesla’s Musk, will get a…

    Talking Numbers
  • Romney-Sized IRAs Scrutinized as Government Studies Taxes

    The preliminary report attaches data to an issue that drew attention during the 2012 presidential campaign, when Republican nominee Mitt Romney reported an IRA worth $20 million to $102 million. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden said many of these "massive" accounts come from deals…

    Bloomberg
  • 6 Things Debt Collectors Wish You Knew

    The work debt collectors do is not popular, and has become increasingly derided by those who don’t like what we do or simply don’t know the facts about debt collection. Too often, debt collection is painted with a broad brush to create a portrait that isn’t accurate, and doesn’t properly educate…

    Credit.com
  • Masters in Accounting or Forensic Accounting

    Study online in your spare time and graduate in less than two years. Accredited program from New England College School of Accounting.

    AdChoicesNew England CollegeSponsored
  • The Government Keeps Helping People Buy Failing Cold Stone Creamerys

    Would you loan someone money to buy a Cold Stone Creamery franchise if you knew that more than a quarter of those loans default? Over the last decade, franchisees in the Cold Stone Creamery ice cream chain defaulted on 29 percent of working-capital loans backed by the government, costing taxpayers…

    BusinessWeek