EMG in Athens
Greece on strike against austerity plan
15. June 2011. | 07:11 17:27
Source: Emg.rs, ANA, Newsit.gr
Author: Nikos D. A. Arvanites
The country may grind to a virtual standstill on Wednesday, when national unions have called a 24-hour general strike against the latest round of austerity measures and higher taxes.
The June 15 strike has been called by the country's two largest trade union federations, the General Confederation of Employees of Greece (GSEE) representing the private-sector workforce and the civil servants' union federation Adedy. It is expected to affect both the private and public sectors, including flights, health services and public transport.
Hospitals, health centres and the ambulance service will be operating on skeleton staff as doctors and nurses go on strike.
Ferries and ships will remain anchored in ports as a result of the 24-hour strike decided by the Panhellenic Seamen's Federation (PNO) for all categories of ships and all trains will be at a standstill, including the trains serving the Athens airport. However, flights to and from all Greek airports will be conducted on schedule on Wednesday, as the Union of Air Traffic Controllers decided on Tuesday to suspend the mobilisation it had called.
Public transport in Athens will be running for most of the day Wednesday, as employees will be staging work stoppages at the beginning of the morning shifts and at the end of the night shifts. Public transport workers decided the stoppages, rather than a 24-hour strike, to facilitate the public in commuting in order to take part in protest demonstrations.
Commuter buses will run from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., the Athens Metro from 8:00 a.m. to the end of the night shift, the ISAP trains from 8:00 a.m. to 9L00 p.m., trolleys from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and trams from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Hellenic Rail (Ose) and Proastiakos suburban rail will not be running on Wednesday.
It is noted that the Athens Metro will be operating on Wednesday only to Doukissis Plakentias station, and will not serve traffic on the section to and from Athens International Airport, as that section belongs to the jurisdiction of Ose, whose employees are staging a 24-hour strike.
In addition, journalists are to hold a 24-hour nationwide strike on Wednesday, called by the national journalists' union federation Poesy and its individual member unions. The strike will begin at 6am on Wednesday and end on 6am on Thursday.
As of the following Monday, June 20, the Public Power Corporation (Dei) staff union Genop is scheduled to begin a series of rolling 48-hour strikes protesting against the further privatisation of the power utility.
The strike is expected to have an impact on power supply across the country and may lead to scheduled rotating power cuts.
Early Wednesday police had erected a metal barrier across the street leading to the parliament building and dozens of police vans were parked in front to allow the deputies unhindered access and keep at bay the crowd of protestors.
Several main thoroughfares around parliament were also closed to traffic and pedestrians and the city centre was also cordoned off.
Some 5,000 officers, including hundreds of riot and motorcycle police, were on duty, using parked buses and crowd barriers to prevent protesters from encircling the building.
At least 11,000 people gathered peacefully in Syntagma Square outside Parliament, according to police, while another union demonstration was expected later Wednesday.
Greek police have fired tear gas to push back protesters trying to blockade Parliament, where the struggling government will launch a debate on new cutbacks needed to secure international rescue loans.
Scuffles broke out between riot police and small groups of demonstrators as more than 20,000 protesters thronged the center of the capital city.
Groups of youths on the edge of the protest threw stones and firebombs at police outside parliament.Other demonstrators who had been part of the previously peaceful gathering also clashed with the violent groups of hooded youths, trying to eject them from their rally.
The clashes came Wednesday as Prime Minister George Papandreou was meeting with the country's president to discuss Greece's severe debt crisis
A previously announced 24-hour media strike in Greece on Wednesday -- coinciding with a general strike called by the two largest unions in the country -- was suspended before noon the same day.
A national media sector umbrella federation, POESY, referred to "ongoing developments" in the country in rescinding the industrial action.
Several people among the peaceful protestors interevened in an attempt to stop them and keep the trouble-makers away from the peaceful protests, while some people suffered minor injuries during the clashes.
Among them the TV documentary journalist Tasos Telloglou, who was attacked by a group of unidentified individuals on the corner of Perikleous and Lekka streets. He was has been taken to hospital for tests.
Authorities have so far made two arrests and detained 18 people in connection with the incidents. Twelve of those detained, during earlier clashes on Vassileos Georgiou Street, have already been released and another six are being questioned.
Police said two officers have been injured in the violence so far.
Opposition Radical Left Coalition (Syriza) on Wednesday condemned "the unsuccessful provocation at Athens' Syntagma Square, attempted by circles of the terrified system of power".
Syriza also condemned what it claims was the "presence of dozens of undercover police that wore hoods over their heads and in collaboration with police forces attempted to break up the tens of thousands of demonstrators who protested peacefully at Syntagma Square".
Syriza underlined that the peaceful mass demonstration cannot be hurt by provocation and blamed the government stressing that it "chose violence over democracy".
Few MPs enter into besieged Parliament
Parliamentary sessions continued in spite of the protestors surrounding the building since early on Wednesday morning, but not more than 30 of the 300 MPs had braved the crowds in order to attend a debate on an organ transplants bill scheduled for that morning.
Even though Health Minister Andreas Loverdos insisted that "there were no impasses in Democracy", the climate within the chamber was extremely subdued, while many MPs were jeered by protestors as they entered the building.
Toward the middle of the day, deputies on the Committee for Economic Affairs that is due to begin discussing the Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy began to arrive one by one, under extremely high security, from the Vassilisis Sofias entrance.
A meeting of Pasok's Parliamentary Work Sector is to begin at 2:30 p.m. with a presentation by Finance Minister Yiorgos Papakonstantinou, while Parliament's Economic Affairs Committee is scheduled to convene roughly two hours later at 4:30 p.m.
During the debate, Loverdos underlined that Parliament was continuing its work and not intimidated, while noting that "we can't solve the issue by denouncing ourselves in order to be likeable. We have responsibilities but primarily we have a responsibility to keep the country upright".
New Democracy's Parliamentary representative Constantinos Tasoulas responded by saying that ND's responsibility was to persuade the government that there was another way out of the crisis.
Independent MP Dora Bakoyannis noted that party leaders had to be in Parliament at this time because, if they weren't, they broadcast a message of fear. She stressed the need for the parties to work together in order to present a united front.
"At this time an aswer must be given from within Parliament and in unity because otherwise tomorrow morning democracy will be in trouble," she said.
Former Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis criticised the fact that many MPs had not been informed that access to Parliament was open since the crowds outside were protesting peacefully and only a handful were capable of triggering extreme events.