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Greece: 48-Hour General Strike Against New Austerity Measures

Translated Tuesday 14 February 2012, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Henry Crapo

The two big Greek trade union confederations, ADEDY in the public sector and GSEE in the private sector, and the communist trade union All Workers Militant Front (PAME) called on Feb. 9 for a general strike Feb. 10 and 11 against the new austerity measures demanded by the European Union and the IMF in exchange for a new loan.

They also called for demonstrations late in the morning on Feb. 10 and 11 and late in the afternoon on Feb. 12 against this new set of austerity and deregulation measures, which the government intends to submit to a vote of parliament on the evening of Feb. 12. The measures, which are on the horizon following an agreement in principle among the three government coalition parties, which was reached in the night of Feb. 8-9, “are going to be the tomb of Greek society,” according to a joint communiqué issued by ADEDY and GSEE. It added that “the government has no legitimacy to impose them.”

“Chronicle of an announced death”

GSEE and ADEDY intend to mass protesters in Syntagma Square in central Athens for three successive days. For the past two years, the square has been the epicenter of dissent against austerity. There have been frequent clashes between the police and demonstrators. The communist trade union front PAME called for an “uprising” and is, for its part, to mobilize its activists on the Athens Pedion tou Areos (Field of Mars) beginning on Feb. 9, before holding marches on the weekend, but separately from the other trade union confederations.

On Feb. 7, more than 20,000 people demonstrated in Athens and Salonika on the occasion of the year’s first Greek general strike against the new austerity program that is on the horizon for the country.

“The painful reforms, which will impoverish the young, the unemployed, and the retired, don’t leave us much margin for action. We will not accept them. We’re headed for a social uprising,” the general secretary of ADEDY, Ilias Iliopoulous told Reuters.

The new measures “are the chronicle of an announced death (…), whose objective is to overthrow all labor laws and to lower wages by 20 to 30%, above and beyond the cuts that have already been made,” the president of the GSEE said.

Snap government accord on austerity.

A general agreement on the contents of the “new program” of austerity measures that the EU and the IMF are demanding of Greece was concluded on Feb. 9. in the run-up to that evening’s Eurogroup meeting, dedicated to the rescue plan for the highly indebted country, according to a communiqué issued by the services of the Greek prime minister. It added that “the political leaders have agreed on the results of the negotiations” conducted by Lucas Papademos with the troika representing the country’s EU and IMF creditors. It also added that this would free up the 130 billion euros in loans that the euro zone promised Greece in late October. Without at least 130 billion euros in new aid, Greece risked payment default on March 20, when 14.5 billion euros in bonds come due.

The Hellenic Statistical Authority simultaneously announced that the one-million unemployed mark, in a country of 11 million inhabitants, had been exceeded in November, bringing unemployment to a new record level of 20.9%, a level never seen since the country joined the euro zone in 2000. Almost half the young people are out of work (48%). They are, together with women (24.5% jobless rate), the main victims of unemployment.

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