May Day strike against austerity in Greece

Wednesday 01 May 2013 22.41
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Greece's 24-hour walkout was called by its two major public and private sector unions
Greece's 24-hour walkout was called by its two major public and private sector unions
It is the latest in a long line of strikes and protests in the debt-laden country ravaged by its sixth year of recession
It is the latest in a long line of strikes and protests in the debt-laden country ravaged by its sixth year of recession
Ships and ferries stayed docked at ports
Ships and ferries stayed docked at ports
A burned EU flag hangs on the barriers protecting the Greek parliament
A burned EU flag hangs on the barriers protecting the Greek parliament

Greece's two main trade unions took to the streets on May Day to protest against the latest economic measures, which include the sacking of 15,000 public sector workers.

May Day protesters marched in Athens after the county's two major public and private sector unions organised a 24-hour walkout.

It is the latest in a long line of strikes and protests in Greece, which is now in its sixth year of recession.

President of the Confederation of Civil Servants Trade Union Kostas Tsikrikas said his organisation would continue to battle against the country's austerity measures.

"We will continue to fight to overturn this unfair and dead-end policy that is destroying millions of jobs on a national and European level and is driving large swathes of society to poverty and destruction," he said.

Representing about 2.5 million workers, the unions have gone on strike repeatedly since Europe's debt crisis erupted in late 2009, testing the government's will to implement necessary reforms in the face of growing public anger.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's eight-month-old coalition government has been eager to show it will implement reforms it promised the European Union and International Monetary Fund, which have bailed out Greece twice with over €200bn.

But leader of the opposition Syriza Party, Alexis Tsipras, said the government had gone too far with its austerity measures.

He said: "The economy will not be revived by the bankrupt banking empire or the corrupt political system. The working people will revive it with their battles.

"They want the people to obey because they are afraid of them. We want the people on the front line so we can rebuild Greece."

About 1,000 policemen were deployed to handle any violence during the rallies and strikes.

But participation was well below the levels of major protests last year when as many as 100,000 Greeks marched to the central Syntagma square chanting slogans.

Unions themselves expected turnout to be low in Greece with the traditional 1 May holiday falling just a few days before Greek Orthodox Easter, which meant public schools were shut and many workers had already left for holidays.

Public transport in Athens was disrupted with buses and subways halted, while ships and ferries stayed docked at ports after seamen also walked off the job.

Bank and hospital workers also joined the one-day strike.