Greece Paralyzed By 48-Hr General Strike Over Austerity Plan

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ATHENS (MNI) – Greece’s private and public sectors were shut down
Tuesday by a 48-hour general strike that was called to protest a new
E13.5 billion austerity package that includes another round of cuts to
salaries, pensions and benefits.

The two largest labor unions, GESEE and ADEDY, announced
demonstrations at the center of Athens on Wednesday, when the plan will
be voted on by Greek parliament.

Parliament must back the new measures, and the government’s 2013
budget – to be voted on Sunday – in order to receive a E31.5 billion
loan tranche that has been delayed since July.

The strikes hitting Greece include public transport workers,
lawyers, air traffic controllers, taxi drivers, pharmacists, commercial
shops, doctors, all public companies and government ministries.

Greek journalists were on strike Monday.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said the latest round of austerity
“would be the last,” and he urged all the parliamentary members of his
governing coalition parties to vote in favor of the package.

However, the Democratic Left Party, the junior member of the
three-party coalition, is refusing to back the package because it
includes highly controversial labor reforms that would make it easier to
fire workers, cut the minimum wage and reduce the collective bargaining
power of unions.

The second biggest coalition party, the socialist Pasok, is also
facing a rebellion by some of its MPs.

Nonetheless, the coalition leaders seem confident that the
dissenters will come around. Samaras is still trying to find a way to
convince the Democratic Left to vote for the package as a whole.

The Democratic Left leader, Fotis Kouvelis, said he would vote for
the austerity package if the proposed labor reforms are stripped out of
it and taken up separately at a later date. He also said he would vote
for the 2013 budget.

–Athens Bureau, apapmiltiadou@mni-news.com; +306-937-100071

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