Greek workers staged a general strike on 18 October, with tens of thousands demonstrating in Athens and across the country. It was the 20th such national stoppage since the financial crisis began, with taxi drivers, ferry workers, doctors, teachers and traffic controllers taking part.
At the end of September a general strike in Greece brought the country to a halt as doctors, teachers, tax officials, ferry operators and air traffic controllers walked out, along with workers in other industries. Banks and historic sites were closed as were most shops, with shopkeepers also observing the strike and attending demonstrations.
An estimated 50,000 protested in September outside the Greek parliament in Athens against cuts of 11.5 billion euros and measures which include cutting pensions and raising the retirement age. Further proposals are for sharp increases in income tax rates and a lowering of tax thresholds, the introduction of a six-day week, cuts in the minimum wage and a halving of notice periods for redundancy.
A rally of shipyard workers the following day saw protestors breaking into the courtyard of the defence ministry. They had not been paid for several months and their employer, Hellenic Shipyards, is faced with bankruptcy following the cancellation of defence contracts.
Farmers in Crete have taken action, blockading the runway of Heraklion airport with their tractors. There were also demonstrations and a three-hour strike against German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit on 9 October. Banners read “No to the Fourth Reich”. Unemployment reached 25 per cent in July with young people being particularly badly hit. It was 11.8 per cent in April 2010.
Greece is entering its sixth year of recession, with the economy predicted to shrink by a further 6.5 per cent this year, despite earlier estimates of 4.8 per cent. Even the International Monetary Fund is expressing its qualms about the situation in Greece, but Merkel has rebuffed any idea of backtracking and is calling for the EU to have the power to veto national budgets. ■