On Wednesday 7th of November the Greek parliament voted for the new austerity measures package. It is almost impossible to describe in detail all these measures and their impact on Greek people 's life even in broad outline but generally speaking we could say that by including a lot of redundancies, further decrease of salaries, pensions and benefits, they bring down whatever remains standing after three years of austerity.
The age of retirement raises by 2 years which means that the majority of the workers will go into retirement at 67 years old even those who are ready to be retired next year. They cut down all pensions by between 5% and 15% and they cut out the Christmas and Easter bonus for all pensioners and public servants too. Depending on the case, the working sector and conditions, they either cut down or even stop welfare state benefits, such as unemployment, poverty, family/child care and even handicap benefits.
They also introduce a retrospective change in the national agreement of labour which has been called anti-constitutional by a specialist committee of the parliament itself but that seems not to bother the government. According to this change the minimum wage will be frozen and from now on will be regulated by the minister of labour itself, there will be no increase for anyone to the scale of payments, the employers will have the right to give shorter notice before discharge, lower redundancy pay, lower contribution to the pension and health funds and the working hours also will depend on their will. Finally the employers are not obliged to follow the national agreement if they do not want to sign it!
There are also further increases in indirect taxes, measures against the income of farmers, redundancies in the public sector and total flexibility of the public servants. The package contains further privatization of the public sector, enforcing also further privatization of hospital treatment which includes a price for hospital admission (a patient who will need to be admitted to a hospital will have to pay 25 Euro just to start with). This, for a country with more than 30% unemployment, means that thousands of people will not be able to afford medical treatment.
Greece, November 6th and 7th: General strike
A 48-hours general strike was called in Greece by the general confederation of the Greek unions for 6th and 7th of November.
On Tuesday 6th of November, first day of the general strike, a few thousand people gathered in the morning at the strike demonstration gathering point at the national museum near to the Polytechnic school. It seems that the strikes in the transportation sector and the continuous general strikes during the last period prevented people from attending. Despite the presence of a lot of riot police squads, undercover policemen and motorcycle police units in most streets and side-streets leading to Syntagma square, demonstrators marched toward the square and they filled it until 1 o' clock when they started to leave the place. It was a quiet and quite disappointing day of strike!
On the second day things seem to be different. There were several calls for gathering outside of the parliament in the afternoon when the measures package will be voted. Plenty of strikers have been detained by the police as its units attacked and blocked demonstrators who were trying to go to the gathering point. Additionally metro stations in the center of Athens were ordered closed by the police and policemen on several occasions made preemptive detentions, in order to prevent demonstrators from reaching syntagma square.
Despite the police mobilization at least 100.000 demonstrators managed to gathered at 18:30 in front of or next to the Greek parliament. At 19:00 demonstrators started pushing the metal fence and the barriers which protected the parliament and as soon as they managed to destroy a small part of it riot police units attacked people. Molotov Cocktails (petrol bombs) were thrown by the demonstrators in order to defend themselves from police attacks. Huge amounts of teargas and stun grenades were used by riot police squads in order to force demonstrators to abandon the square. But people wanted to stay in the square and they regrouped again every time they were forced to disperse by the teargas. The pressing from demonstrators was so intense that police officers decided to use water canons for the first time against people during a strike.
There were clashes outside the parliament and around syntagma square for hours until the rain started. It was amazing to see that people did not want to leave the area! But the combination of the teargases with the rain turned the whole area into an unbearable field for the majority of the demonstrators. Most of them started to leave under the continuous attacks by the riot police squads. As the blocks of strikers were leaving the area, police units attacked, causing a lot of people to be wounded. There were reported at least 40 injuries, some of them helped by striking doctors and nurses in a kind of DIY health clinic inside a hotel in the area.
After a final attempt to re-take syntagma square, riot police units finally cleared the area from the strikers under heavy rain around 10:00. There were reported to be 103 detentions, 5 arrests, at least 40 injured demonstrators and 7 injured policemen.
The package of severe austerity measures has passed through the parliament after a midnight vote.