Greece Gears Up for Another General Strike

Greece’s two largest labor unions, GSEE and ADEDY, representing public and private workers, will lead another 24-hour general strike on Oct. 18, shutting down much of the country for the third time in a month.

The strike and expected protests will occur as Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is at a meeting of European Union leaders in Brussels, where had had oped to present a finalized package of $17.45 billion in spending cuts and tax hikes to prime the release of a delayed $38.8 billion installment from international lenders.

Greek workers, pensioners and the poor are furious over another pending wave of austerity measures being prepared by the uneasy coalition government that Samaras’ New Democracy party oversees, along with the PASOK Socialists and Democratic Left, which are balking at some of the toughest conditions, delaying approval from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB.)

Hospital doctors, court officials and journalists walked off the job on Oct. 17 and doctors said they also would not work on the next day. There was a news blackout in Greece because of the journalists strike. A similar action on Sept. 26 was the first time Samaras had faced social unrest since narrowly winning the June 17 election and after he promptly reneged on campaign pledges to hold the line against austerity. There was another strike and protest earlier this month during the visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Oct. 9.

Passenger ferries will not be running after the Panhellenic Seamen’s Union (PNO) decided to join the general strike. The PNO is demanding that ferry companies sign a new collective contract with their employees. Public transport will also be disrupted. Trolley buses in Athens will not be in circulation at all, while the metro and the Kifissia-Piraeus electric railway (ISAP) will not be running before 9 a.m.

Buses will be in operation between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Taxi drivers will walk off the job between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.Kiosk owners are also striking and flights will also be disrupted as air-traffic controllers will hold a work stoppage from 10 a.m. to 1.p.m.

Greece has been besieged by strikes, protests and riots for more than 2 1/2 years, since the former government of then PASOK leader and Prime Minister George Papandreou asked for a first bailout to prop up the country’s faltering economy. None of the actions have caused the government, including Samaras’, to relent on austerity measures that have worsened a five-year recession, put nearly two million people out of work, closed 68,000 businesses and is shrinking the economy 7 percent.