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Greek workers in new protest against cuts

ATHENS (AFP) ― Hundreds of people from Greece’s two main private and public sector unions protested in central Athens Saturday to condemn the government’s new bailout deal with international lenders.

Around 1,500 people marched to the capital’s main Syntagma Square, in front of the Greek parliament, with banners proclaiming: “No to the new memorandum” and “Resist!”
Protesters from a communist-backed union wave flags during an anti-austerity protest in central Athens on Friday. (AP-Yonhap News)
Protesters from a communist-backed union wave flags during an anti-austerity protest in central Athens on Friday. (AP-Yonhap News)

It was the latest in a series of protests as anger grows over waves of spending cuts and tax hikes amid a deep recession and job layoffs, as the government battles to steer the debt-ridden country out of crisis.

The European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank ― known as “the troika” ― agreed Friday to extend the next tranche of funds under Greece’s rescue accord package, most likely in July.

Trade unions say that the new payout will see more misery for the population in the shape of additional and tougher austerity measures.

“We demand a different economic policy with developmental and social measures ... that will safeguard jobs and will expand our economic and social rights,” the GSEE and ADEDY unions said in a statement at Saturday’s march.

“We are resisting the government and the memorandum (new deal) for these barbaric and antisocial measures,” ADEDY official Grigoris Kalomiris said.

“For one year now, the government is training us to feel guilty ... we will face the ‘troika’ and the government on the streets,” Nikos Fotopoulos, president of the GENOP-DEI union for the Public Power Corporation, told AFP.

More than a year has passed since Greece’s dire economic situation was unveiled, and the impact of the crisis is starting to bite.

Twenty-six-year-old Stratos, who would not give his last name, said his salary from his job at a call centre dropped by 30-40 percent in the past year.

“I’m still living with my parents and my life is less secure. I have never seen my father so depressed and that’s what worries me the most,” Stratos, holding a banner, told AFP.

Journalist Katerina Thoivou said she also “feels” the crisis, even though her pay had not fallen. “It was low to start off. Everything else has become more expensive,” the 37-year-old said.

Most Greeks no longer have confidence in the country’s political system, according to an opinion poll published in the daily To Vima last week.

Three-quarters of those surveyed said they disapproved of Socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou’s handling of the crisis and also the reaction of his right-wing rival, Antonis Samaras.

Members of the Communist-affiliated PAME union on Friday occupied the Greek finance ministry, calling for action against fresh austerity measures.

The protesters replaced the European Union flag on the ministry roof with a PAME banner and set up loudspeakers blaring slogans and songs.

On Thursday government spokesman George Petalotis was heckled and pelted with fruit and pots of yoghurt by protesters as he arrived to give a speech at a home for the elderly in an Athens suburb.

GSEE and ADEDY have called a general strike on June 15, the third this year against the government’s economic policies, and protests on June 9 at state companies under threat of privatization.