Bloomberg News

Greek Unions Strike Against Austerity Measures, Asset Sales

June 15, 2011

(Updates with rally in second paragraph, today’s crowd in fifth and Papandreou meeting with Greek president in seventh.)

June 15 (Bloomberg) -- Greece’s ports, banks, hospitals and state-run companies ground to a halt today as the two biggest labor unions went on strike to oppose Prime Minister George Papandreou’s additional budget cuts and asset sales.

ADEDY, the largest public-sector union, and the General Confederation of Labor, or GSEE, the biggest private-sector union, called the third general strike of the year to protest the government’s five-year fiscal plan and program of state asset sales, according to e-mailed statements. The two unions were due to march to parliament at 11 a.m. in Athens.

Papandreou aims to get the 78 billion-euro ($113 billion) package passed in parliament this month. He faces growing dissent within his Socialist Pasok party and among Greeks. One Pasok lawmaker said yesterday he won’t vote for the bill and a second withdrew from the party, the To Vima newspaper reported in separate articles. Papandreou now has a five-seat majority in the 300-member assembly.

“This government has the responsibility to save the country from default,” George Petalotis, a spokesman, told reporters in Athens yesterday when asked about the strikes.

About 1,000 people have gathered in front of parliament in the capital’s main Syntagma square, shouting chants and carrying signs as lawmakers begin to debate the bill, submitted on June 9. A group called the People’s Assembly of Syntagma that is urging people to encircle parliament held a banner that read: “Their parliament will be their prison, we are decided.”

Bid for Aid

Demonstrators have gathered in the square in front of parliament for 21 days, setting up tents and calling on others to join them. Police said the largest rally was on June 5, when 50,000 people gathered in front of the chamber.

Papandreou’s budget measures, which include higher taxes and lower public-sector wages, aim to get more aid after a 110 billion-euro European Union-led bailout agreed last year failed to secure market access for Greek bonds in 2012. Papandreou meets President Karolos Papoulias at 1 p.m. today.

Public-sector workers, hospital employees, bank workers, police officers and journalists are participating in the 24-hour strike. Ferry operations are disrupted and public transport will be interrupted.

Unions opposed Pasok’s plans to sell stakes in state-owned companies such as Public Power Corp SA. The GENOP union, which represents workers at the company, said it will hold 48-hour rolling strikes from June 20 until the government backs down.

“We demand withdrawal of the harsh and unjust measures being imposed by the government as it has been commanded to do by our lenders,” GSEE said in an e-mail.

--Editors: Eddie Buckle, Jennifer M. Freedman

To contact the reporters on this story: Natalie Weeks in Athens at nweeks2@bloomberg.net; Eleni Chrepa in Athens at echrepa@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Angela Cullen at acullen8@bloomberg.net


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