New anti-austerity strikes hit Greece | Pakistan Today

New anti-austerity strikes hit Greece

New strikes hit Greece on Tuesday as the government finalised talks with its EU-IMF creditors on additional spending cuts to secure payment of a bankruptcy-saving loan. Civil servants blocked the entrance to several ministries, teachers and municipal staff walked out and a key refinery began a protest shutdown ahead of a general strike on October 19. Hospital workers and prison guards will go on strike later this week while Greece’s tax collectors and bank workers plan stoppages next week with lawyers also threatening to join the fray. Public sector workers are up in arms over pay cuts and government plans to put at least 30,000 on temporary leave this year, on top of cuts imposed last year to rein in a budget deficit five times over the European Union ceiling.
Lawyers, pharmacists, taxi owners and other self-employed professionals are protesting against a parallel deregulation drive to improve the competitiveness of the gridlocked Greek economy, which is in a deep recession. Another strike by garbage collectors that began last week has left the capital Athens strewn with trash heaps. The spending cuts and reforms are mandated by the EU, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank, which in 2010 bailed out Greece with a 110 billion euro ($160 billion) huge loan.
Unions say the creditors are also pushing for cuts in the private sector minimum wage, currently at 750 euros ($1,015). Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said he had ended his talks with a mission from the three creditors, whose report later this month will determine if Athens will receive the latest eight-billion-euro tranche from the bailout package. The report is expected by October 24. Greece’s reserves to pay wages and pensions runs out in November, when it could face default if the 8.0 billion euros is blocked.
Athens has demanded improved debt rollover terms from its private creditors. It has a sovereign debt of over 350 billion euros ($474 billion) and faces interest repayments of 17.9 billion euros in 2012, up from 16.3 billion euros in 2011. Under an additional EU bailout for Greece agreed in July, banks were to take a 21-percent cut on their holdings of Greek government bonds maturing up to 2020.
But after talks with the EU and IMF this week, Venizelos said an “improved” scheme would be discussed. In recent days there has been growing speculation that Athens would need a 50-percent writedown – or perhaps even more – to make this debt mountain sustainable.

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