Updated: 07:40, Thursday, 18 October 2012
Unions in Greece are holding another general strike against the country’s austerity program, as European leaders gather for a summit in Brussels.
It is the second general strike in less than a month.
Unions are organising two separate marches in central Athens.
Protests will focus on the new austerity measures for 2013-14, demanded by bailout creditors.
The city has seen hundreds of anti-austerity protests, many violent, over the past three years, since Greece revealed it had been misreporting key deficit figures, precipitating the country’s economic crisis.
Yesterday, journalists and media workers staged a protest march through Athens.
Greece has remained solvent with the help of two massive international bailouts worth a total €240bn.
To secure them, it committed to drastic spending cuts, tax hikes and reforms, aimed to cure years of profligate government spending.
But while significantly reducing budget deficits, the measures accelerated a recession that after five years is closer to a depression.
By the end of next year, the economy is expected to have shrunk by about a quarter from 2008 levels.
With one in four workers out of a job, Greece has the worst unemployment rate in the 27-nation European Union.
The country’s four-month-old coalition government is negotiating a new austerity package with debt inspectors from the EU, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank.
The idea is to save €11bn in spending, largely on pensions and health care, and to raise an extra €2.5bn through taxes.
After more than a month and a half of arguing, a deal appears to be close.
Yesterday, the EU, IMF and ECB troika said there was agreement on “most of the core measures needed to restore the momentum of reform” and that the rest of the issues should be resolved in coming days.
The Greek government hopes to get the next loan instalment around mid-November, shortly after which it will run out of cash.
That would probably force Greece to default on its debt and potentially abandon the 17-strong eurozone.
Unions say the cost of securing the money is too high.
“What people can shoulder new measures, when approximately 70% of it is caught between poverty and destitution?” said Ilias Iliopoulos, secretary-general of the ADEDY civil servant union. “It is absolutely impossible.”
The 24-hour strike will stop all rail and ferry services, while a walkout by air traffic controllers will ground flights for three hours.
Schools and tax offices will be closed all day, state hospitals will function on emergency staffing and bank services will be disrupted.
Athens police will be on alert for potential rioting, as most recent major protests have turned violent with masked anarchists fighting police.
Municipal officials in traditional riot hotspots yesterday removed rubbish bins from the streets, as rioters usually set them on fire.