by Aggelos Skordas
More than 20,000 people joined a peaceful demonstration in central Athens on Friday against new austerity measures included in a package of reforms agreed between the Greek government and the country’s creditors in order to complete the bailout program’s third review. Protestors chanting anti-austerity and anti-government chants marched in the central streets of Athens and reached the Parliament where minor clashes erupted between a group of demonstrators that approached one of the building’s entrances (by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) and riot police squads, who made extended use of tear gas in order to push them away. No arrests or injuries were reported, while the disturbance only lasted for a few minutes.
Among the measures included in the new reforms package is one restricting the right to strike which is expected to be approved by the Greek Parliament by next week in return for additional bailout funds. Furthermore the bill restructures family benefits and introduces a new process for property foreclosures on overdue loans. Friday’s demonstration and public transport strikes caused enormous traffic jam in downtown Athens. In addition, ships remained docked and public hospitals operated with reserve staff as both sailors’ and doctors’ unions participated in the demonstrations nationwide.
GSEE General Confederation of Greek Workers), Greece’s largest trade union body said the bill “deals a killing blow to workers, pensioners and the unemployed, effectively eliminating even constitutionally safeguarded rights such as the right to strike”, adding that it will affect 99 percent of future strikes. On his behalf, Secretary General of the Greek Communist Party (KKE), Dimitris Koutsoumbas, characterized the measures to be brought in the Parliament on Monday as anti-labor.
SYRIZA-ANEL coalition government is considering the austerity bill to potentially be the last one voted by the Greek Parliament as the country is heading toward the end of memorandum era in the coming summer. Greece expects to draw 4.5 billion euros after fulfilling its latest reforms package. It should be noted that since the beginning of the Greek economic crisis, in 2010, more than 50 general strikes have been held as a reaction to the austerity measures voted by no less than four governments