World Bulletin / News Desk
The country’s largest private-sector labor union joined civil servants on the streets of the Greek capital. A protest rally is expected in Pedion tou Areos park in central Athens. Demonstrations also started in the country’s second city, Thessaloniki.
Thursday's show of strength by labor unions comes ahead of a crucial vote on Saturday by Greek lawmakers on a new budget which is expected to bring more tax rises and pension reforms.
Crowds gathered in Athens to demonstrate against what they saw as continuous oppression by Greece’s European and international lenders.
Public transport stopped as metro, tram, bus and rail workers joined the protests. Ships have remained docked in ports for more than 48 hours.
One protestor, Niki Kolokitha, a 58-year old private sector employee, said she had seen cuts in her salary despite increases in taxes and consumer goods prices.
Criticizing past Greek governments and the current coalition administration headed by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Kolokitha said people were struggling to survive on a daily basis and insisted politicians take into account the suffering of public.
Giorgos, 38, a doctor at a public hospital, said medical workers faced “terrible situations daily”.
Withholding his surname, he added: “We don’t have bandages; we have shortages of things that are of great need, but still the government prefers to visit Cuba and attend a funeral and spend thousands of euros rather than buy hospital items.”
The private-sector General Confederation of Employees of Greece said “struggle is the only way forward”.
“The people of wage labor have only one choice; to keep fighting to put a final end to memorandum policies," the union said in a statement.
The strike comes after Eurogroup finance ministers agreed earlier this week to some debt relief for Greece despite obstacles regarding reforms it must make to hit fiscal targets.
Greece has received billions of euros from previous bailout programs and is currently serving the third bailout phase of €86 billion [$92 billion].
In order to continue receiving funds, Greece has to pass reviews in order to cover its debt which is estimated to be around 180 percent of its GDP.
The short-term measures taken by the finance ministers on Greek debt relief on Monday are expected to lower it by 20 percent of the country’s GDP by 2060, according to Managing Director of the European Stability Mechanism, Klaus Regling.