20,000 joined forces through central Athens, national strike freezes Greece.
Athens – Angry protesters set the finance ministry on fire after some 20,000 strikers marched through central Athens Wednesday and a national strike against austerity measures closed down services, hospitals and schools, Sify. com reports.
Angry demonstrators throwing rocks, bottles and fire bombs clashed with riot police who retaliated with tear gas in front of parliament. Thick smoke engulfed the area immediately around the finance ministry located in Syntagma Square. It appeared that protesters had hurled a fire bomb into the second floor of the building.
The 24-hour nationwide strike in Greece Wednesday saw all schools, hospitals and public sector services shut down in protest after the socialist-led parliament passed a new round of austerity reforms. The Athens International Airport said all flights to and from Greece were cancelled, whilst ships remained at anchor and all train travel came to a halt. The bank workers’ union had already started a 48-hour strike Tuesday.
The parliament passed emergency legislation late Tuesday in a 156 to 130 vote that dictates a fresh round of pay cuts, involuntary staff transfers at state companies and relaxation of labour laws. Gross monthly salaries at state-owned companies are capped at EUR 4,000, while state salaries over EUR 1,800 are to be cut by 10 percent under the new law.
Taxis are scheduled to join the action with a four-hour work stoppage after the government decided to scrap a one euro surcharge added to fares. Christmas bonuses would not be paid this year due to the impact of the economic crisis. The country’s journalists called a 24-hour news blackout and a 48-hour strike Friday and Saturday.
Traffic was snarled for hours in Athens Tuesday during a 24-hour strike by public transport workers, forcing people to their cars. Another 24-hour public transport stoppage is slated for Thursday. Tonnes of uncollected garbage were piling up in greater Athens after a week of work-to-rule action by staff at the main landfill, which has slowed garbage collection in the region. Protesters are demanding the renewal of short-term work contracts for roughly 100 employees.
Athens is implementing a wave of economic reforms as part of a bid to slash public spending in exchange for a EUR 110 bln rescue package from the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). The government announced the labour overhaul after talks last week with top officials from the EU and IMF, which urged Greece to speed up tax reforms.