A 48 HOUR strike by civil servants in Greece was launched yesterday as the government negotiates further austerity measures with the troika.
This followed a 24-hour action on Tuesday which seized most of the country.
Tuesday’s strike brought services at tax offices and local government buildings across the country to a halt.
There was a mass protest march in central Athens as demonstrators gathered at the two squares in central Athens included cleaning staff fired by the Finance Ministry who marched holding up buckets and mops.
In central Athens, a group of school teachers chained themselves to railings in front of parliament.
Nikos Kikakis, a suspended 59-year-old school headmaster who is due to be laid off this month, said: ‘I feel like I”ve been dumped in the trash. I have worked for 26 years in public service, and have no hope of finding a job now.’
An association representing pharmacy owners said it plans to close stores on Friday and Monday in a protest against proposals to loosen retail restrictions and allow the sale of non-prescription drugs at supermarkets.
The latest strikes come as negotiations with international creditors continue to drag on, with the government fearful of imposing more austerity in the face the threat of revolution.
The troika is also demanding that the powerful state-financed labour unions be smashed up and that their right to strike be removed.
The government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, has been subject to a series of strikes and protests over austerity measures he administered on orders of the troika of the Eu-Imf-Ecb.
Samaras is expected to consent to this attack on union rights although the Labour Ministry will seek the consent of the General Confederation of Greek Labour to rubber-stamp the move.
The troika wants the practice stopped of unions being allowed to grant workers up to 20 days a month off for union activities saying most use it to keep second jobs while being paid for their primary jobs.
Another measure that is being considered is making strikes illegal unless they have been approved by at least 50% of each union’s registered members. Employers will also regain the right to stage lockouts, which they lost in 1982.
‘We believe that they will be concluded by Sunday,’ government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou said about the negotiation. We are near the end of the crisis, and this is the last major consultation.’
Greece has been hammered by a vicious financial crisis since late 2009 that developed into an economic depression. The economy has shrunk by around a quarter while unemployment has soared to over 25%.
Since May 2010, Greece has been dependent on billions of euros in ‘rescue loans’ from the other European Union countries that use the currency, and from the International Monetary Fund.
In return, successive Greek governments have slashed spending and increased taxes.
Sacked Finance Ministry cleaners and state school guards occupied the Athens City Hall last Tuesday as a prelude to the Wednesday and Thursday’s national strike throughout the public sector called by the ADEDY (public sector trades unions confederation) against mass sackings by the Greek coalition government.
For Wednesday ADEDY had planned rallies and marches in all the main Greek cities and concerts on Thursday. The teachers, hospital workers, civil servants, and the local government workers’ trades unions federations had decided to join the strike and the marches.
On orders from the EC-IMF-ECB troika, the Greek government have put some 15,000 public sector workers on the so-called ‘mobility scheme’ for nine months since last summer. The government intend to sack these workers by the end of the month. If they can succeed on this the government would push on to get rid of tens of thousands of civil servants, teachers and municipality workers by the end of the year. They are to be replaced by long term unemployed on short-term contracts of 500 euros a month.
• Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is the subject of a lawsuit for ‘inciting hatred’ in an election campaign speech he made following the funeral of a 15-year-old killed after being struck by a teargas canister in which he branded him as a terrorist.
The lawsuit was submitted to the Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office on monday by the People’s Houses (Halkevleri), a civil society group.
Tens of thousands joined the funeral of Berkin Elvan, who had spent 269 days in a coma after being struck on the head with a teargas canister when he went out to buy bread for his family on June 15 2013.
At his funeral in Istanbul’s Sisli district, mourners threw carnations and brandished loaves of bread.
Others waved signs reading ‘Berkin Elvan is immortal’ and ‘Murderers are amongst us’.
‘He was just a child,’ said Eray, 18, a student who joined the funeral procession. ‘He should have been in school now, studying, just like us. But this government killed him. We don’t expect any justice from them. We don’t expect anything from them anymore.’
As the funeral ended police trained teargas and water cannon on the mourners in a sign that Turkish authorities are unwilling to tolerate even the slightest street unrest ahead of a series of crucial elections starting later this month.
The renewed unrest expected is adding to the pressure on Erdogan, whose government is reeling from the large-scale corruption scandal which followed waves of anti-government protests all over Turkey last summer.
Others at the funeral were equally defiant. ‘We feel very close to Berkin, he was one of us, a child of the people,’ said Pinali Cakmak, 43. Sadly we did not only lose him. We lose a Berkin every month, every year in Turkey. The government wants to make us get used to this pain, but we will not let them.
A group of youngsters stopped by a pharmacy to buy dust masks and menthol rub against teargas, just in case. ‘They killed Berkan,’ one said. ‘They are killers. We have lost all trust in our government.’
In his televised campaign speech on friday ahead of the March 30 elections, Erdogan accused Elvan of being a member of a terrorist organisation referring to him as: ‘This kid with steel marbles in his pockets, with a slingshot in his hand, his face covered with a scarf, who had been taken up into terror organisations, was unfortunately subjected to pepper gas.’
He also claimed that Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), was ‘lying as always’ when he said that Elvan was going out to buy bread for his mother when he was struck by a teargas canister.
Erdogan also criticised Elvan’s parents for blaming him for the death of their son. The lawsuit petition read: ‘Erdogan committed a crime by inciting hatred and hostility among the public with his speech at the rally.
‘He stigmatised Berkin – whose funeral was attended by millions – as a terrorist.’
The petition also said that the slain youngster, Burak Can Karamanoglu, who was shot dead on the same day was a ‘martyr’. News of Elvan’s death prompted an outbreak of angry street protests against the government and prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose is also in the midst of a corruption scandal implicating his family and political allies.
Clashes erupted in more than 30 Turkish cities ahead of the funeral last Tuesday night as anger boiled over at the teenager’s death. Election posters for Erdagon ruling AK party were torn down across the country and set on fire and spat on.