May 04, 2010

Rise up ! - Greece sends message to Europe's people, Morning Star, Tuesday 04 May 2010

CLEAR: Communists' message to Europe

Communists have unfurled banners over the walls of the Acropolis calling on the people of Europe to rise up against regressive austerity measures as Greek workers kicked off 48-hour national strikes against them.

About 100 Greek Communist Party activists cut through locks on the gates of the major tourist attraction shortly after dawn and spread the banners in Greek and English reading: "Peoples of Europe - Rise Up."

Police did not intervene as the protesters carrying red flags stood beside the ancient Parthenon, next to the two large banners.

The demonstrators did not attempt to prevent tourists from visiting the site.

Communist Party official Panagiotis Papageorgopoulos said: "This is a message to the people of Europe - people have the same problems everywhere.

"We should take control of our fate with organised protests, so that our lives are not run by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund."

Greece's cash-strapped government announced sweeping spending cuts worth €30 billion (£26bn) until 2012 on Sunday, in order to secure a package of loans from the US-dominated IMF and the other 15 eurozone countries.

The new measures, which were submitted in a draft Bill to Parliament yesterday and are to be voted on by the end of the week, will result in deeper cuts in pensions and public servants' pay and a new increase in consumer taxes.

The nominally Socialist government is proposing to abolish bonus payments for public-sector workers, impose limits on annual holiday bonuses and freeze public-sector pay and pensions for at least three years.

Labour laws are also being liberalised to make it easier for companies to lay off staff.

And VAT will be increased from 21 per cent to 23 per cent, while fuel, alcohol and tobacco taxes will rise by 10 per cent.

Public servants, including state school teachers and hospital workers, began a 48-hour strike to defend their living standards yesterday.

The strike forced Greece's Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines to cancel domestic flights, while all flights to and from the country are to be grounded for 24 hours today as air traffic controllers join in.

Today's strike is expected to shut down ministries, pension funds, public transport and utilities, as well as nurseries, schools and universities.

Hospitals will operate with skeleton staff as doctors, nurses and ambulance drivers join the strike.

Public-sector union ADEDY spokesman Andreas Petropoulos added: "Participation in the strike is very high and we are pleased with the turnout, and it will continue tomorrow.

"We want the government to take back all, and I mean every single austerity measure," Mr Petropoulos stressed.

Late on Monday, protesting school teachers forced their way into Greece's state television building, disrupting programming.

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