GREEK workers shut down the country with a general strike yesterday as MPs debated giving in to new austerity demands from the country’s creditors.
The 24-hour strike by all major unions was called to coincide with a four-day debate on deeper job, pension and welfare cuts in return for bailout money pledged in 2015.
MPs will vote today on whether to accept the ultimatum or see bank bailout payments cut off.
An estimated 12,000 marched through the capital Athens against the latest raft of cuts.
“No to the new looting of salaries and pensions,” said civil servants’ union ADEDY.
Police trade unionists hung a giant banner off the side of Lycabettus Hill in the centre of Athens, with a slogan in German and Greek reading: “How much is the life of a Greek police officer worth?”
“We want to send a decisive message to the government, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund that we will not let them cut up our lives,” said Communist trade union front Pame leader Alekos Perrakis.
Demonstrators directed much of their anger towards Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s Syriza government, which was elected on a promise to oppose austerity but quickly capitulated.
“They told us they would end austerity and tear apart the bailouts,” marcher Paraskevi Tsouparopoulou told Reuters. “Instead they brought us disaster.”
A small group of agents provocateurs broke away from the march to attack police with flares and petrol bombs, who responded with tear gas.
In his message to strikers Greek Communist Party (KKE) general secretary Dimitri Koutsouba said: “A class war is now in progress” and must be waged “every day” to “jump-start the motor of history.”
Most of the money given to Greece by its European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund lenders has been used to pay off dodgy loans given to Greece by banks before the 2008 financial crash.
Most of that debt is now owned by other eurozone governments, so most of the “bailout” cash flows straight back out.