Greek public transport, media launch week-long strike

Parliament on Monday began discussing a bill to cap wages at state-run firms and introduce company-level wage bargaining in the private sector.

Greek public transport, media launch week-long strike

Greek public transport and media workers launched a week of anti-austerity strikes on Monday expected to ground flights, disrupt services and pile rubbish on the streets in the run-up to Christmas holidays.

Parliament on Monday began discussing a bill to cap wages at state-run firms and introduce company-level wage bargaining in the private sector, both key elements in a 110-billion euro bailout agreement with the EU and the IMF.

Public buses across the country and the Athens subway stopped operating for six hours on Monday. Workers at the state broadcaster ERT joined the walkout while staff at the state-owned ATEbank went on rolling 24-hour strikes.

Protests will peak on Wednesday, when the main labour unions from the public and private sector have called a 24-hour general strike. Flights will be grounded and all state services, including garbage collection, disrupted.

"No plane will fly on Wednesday," Yannis Kourmoulakis, secretary general of the air traffic controllers' union, told Reuters. "These measures are hurting us, we won't be able to make ends meet."

"No restrictions for top management"

International lenders have insisted that public sector waste must be cut and labour contracts made more flexible to boost competitiveness and secure the economic growth the country needs to repay its debts -- and avoid a sovereign default that would shake the euro zone.

But the bailout plan has enraged labour unions, which hold Greece's lenders responsible for a prolonged recession and rising unemployment in one of the euro zone's poorest countries.

Greece's 11 biggest loss-making firms, mainly public transport companies such as Hellenic Railways, have piled up more than 13 billion euros of deficits over the last five years.

The law, which is expected to come to a vote on Tuesday, sets a 4,000-euro cap on gross monthly wages at non-listed state firms. Salaries above 1,800 euros a month will be cut by 10 percent. Top management is excluded from the restrictions.

The new pay cuts will affect about 90 percent of workers at these companies. They come on top a 15-percent salary reduction passed earlier this year.

The cash-strapped government announced the law as part of additional budget cuts pledged after it missed its 2010 fiscal targets following weaker than expected tax revenues.

It has promised to make up the shortfall next year, when the budget gap is expected to narrow to 7.4 percent of GDP, down from 9.4 percent in 2010 and 15.4 percent in 2009.


Agencies

Last Mod: 13 Aralık 2010, 15:38
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