Most of Greek workforce participating in a general strike, say unions

Friday, June 24, 2005

Greek workers' unions claim that 70 to 100% of country's workforce has joined the general 24 hour long strike on Friday. The general strike was called by labor umbrella organizations as a show of support for striking bank employees, who are in their third week of strikes.

Private and public sector workers alike are protesting mass lay-offs, alleged age discrimination against employees, the lowering of pensions to 40% of former salary, the repudiation of collective bargaining agreements, while voicing support for the retention of the eight-hour work day.

Buses operated between 8am until 9pm, while the metro, railway, and trams did not operate at all. Administration and civil servants stopped working for three hours during the day. Banks are working with emergency personnel, causing a shortage of currency and slowing commercial and financial transactions. The president of the security guards' union, which includes employees responsible for filling automatic teller machines estimates that most machines will run out of money sometime tomorrow.

Workers in other branches of the private sector, including shipping and tourism, also went on strike for a day. The private sector accounts for roughly half the Greek workforce, with the other half are employed in the public sector.

Independent estimates or reports on impact of the general strike are hard to find, as media workers has joined in the walkout, and broadcast news outlets did not operate at all from 1pm to 5pm.

The strikes were followed by protests in several Greek cities.

The Greek economy continues to grow, but growth has slowed since the close of the 2004 Summer Olympics and analysts had expected economic and political turmoil this summer. Greece had a high GDP growth rate prior to 2004, when it reached 4.1%. However, it is expected that for 2005, it will be around 2.7%. Additionally, a recent survey by the National Statistics Service estimates the national poverty rate to be 20%, despite recent economic progress.

A controversial proposal by New Democracy Prime Minister Costas Caramanlis would overhaul the country's Social Security system to include bank employees, who until now have had separate pension schemes and largely oppose the merger.