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Unions launch 24-hour general strike against austerity

Transport grinds to a halt and schools close as 8,000 people march through Athens in protest

Greek unions launched a 24-hour anti-austerity general strike yesterday, halting trains and ferries, closing state hospitals and shutting down other public services.

Schools and pharmacies were closed, ships remained docked at ports, hospitals operated on emergency staff only and transport in Athens was disrupted due to the walkout.

Communist-linked union Pame led a morning demonstration, while private-sector federation GSEE and its public-sector counterpart the Adedy marched through Athens in the afternoon.

The Panhellenic Federation of Railway Workers and the Panhellenic Seamen’s Federation also took part in the strike.

At least 8,000 people participated in the Pame demonstration, carrying banners and chanting anti-austerity slogans.

As many again marched in the later rally to parliament, uniting thousands of striking workers, pensioners and the unemployed.

“This is our answer to the dead-end policies that have squeezed workers and made Greek people miserable,” GSEE said.

“We are striking to put an end to austerity.”

Unions have staged dozens of strikes since Greece’s first bailout in 2010, saying the measures prescribed by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund have hit the poor and worsened the country’s six-year recession.

Five general strikes were staged last year.

The unions called yesterday’s strike to protest against a government’s plan to fire at least 11,000 public servants this year.

Nearly 4,000 state workers have already lost their jobs.

Smaller protests took place in Thessaloniki, Patras and the capital of Crete.

“Today’s strike is being held for the working class to respond decisively … to the measures the government is deciding against workers’ rights, to the problems of poverty, unemployment, the abolition of collective wage agreements,” said Pame member Giorgos Pondikos, who was among the protesters on the earlier march.

The austerity measures, which range from repeated tax rises to salary and pension cuts, have been demanded by creditors in exchange for bailout loans totalling €240 billion (£200bn).

Greeks have lost about a third of their disposable income since the debt crisis started and unemployment has soared, leaving 28 per cent of people without a job.


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