ATHENS (FT)–Greece’s civil servants staged a 24-hour strike nationwide on Thursday to protest against the austerity measures designed to restore fiscal sustainability and economic competitiveness in the debt-laden country.
The strike resulted in some government and tax offices being shut while public hospitals and ministries worked with emergency staff. Many flights to and from Greek airports were canceled as air traffic controllers joined the civil servants’ strike for four hours.
Officials from ADEDY, the umbrella union organizing the strike, estimated that more than 65 per cent of the country’s 380,000 civil servants participated in the stoppage, which culminated in a peaceful demonstration in central Athens. The number of civil servants in the country is about 770,000 including police and military personnel.
However, the turnout was clearly lower than in previous rallies a few months ago, which is indicative of the prevailing mood as many civil servants have realized that their demonstrations have not borne fruit so far.
Spyros Papaspyros, head of ADEDY, told the FT: “The allocation of the government’s austerity measures continues to be against the salaried workers and pensioners,” adding wage cuts lead to less consumption spending and a deeper recession. The economy is projected to contract about 4 per cent in 2010 and 2.6 per cent in 2011, making it the worse recession in decades.
Civil servants have taken a 15 per cent pay cut on average because of the measures aiming to slash the budget deficit to 8.1-7.8 per cent of gross domestic product this year from an estimated 13.6 per cent of GDP in 2009, which may finally be revised up to 15.1 per cent. However, most of them enjoy guaranteed jobs for life unlike in the private sector.
Unemployment is projected to rise to 14.5 per cent in 2011 from more than 11 per cent in 2010.
Theodore Paggalos, the outspoken government vice-president, suggested a few weeks ago that excessive hirings in the public sector from the two main political parties, the ruling socialists and the conservatives, over the past few decades should be mainly blamed for the country’s fiscal and debt problems.