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Autumn of discontent awaits embattled Greek PM Papandreou

The demonstrations are a foretaste of labor unrest that unions have pledged to organize

Autumn of discontent awaits embattled Greek PM Papandreou

A long autumn of discontent awaits Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou as he prepares to unveil the next stage of his government's debt-dictated austerity reforms in a keynote speech today.
A protest wave by workers disgruntled with draconian cuts, from civil servants and railway staff to truckers and doctors, is gearing to meet Papandreou's announcements in Thessaloniki, Greece's northern metropolis.
The demonstrations, backed by the country's main unions, are a foretaste of labour unrest that unions have pledged to organize after six general strikes already held this year against the Socialists' tough reforms.
"We are preparing our fighting action to take the country out of the shackles of the crisis, the recession and the memorandum," the main union GSEE said this week, referring to an unpopular deal with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund that offered Greece a life-saving loan in April.
Bound by this agreement which rescued Athens from imminent insolvency in return for crack economy reforms, Papandreou has opened several fronts that are turning into a can of worms for his administration.
Among the measures is a long-delayed removal of entry restrictions on several professions including freight transport, engineering and law, and the breakup of key state companies to attract private investors.
Staff at one of the targeted companies, the Hellenic Railways organization OSE, this week halted work and intend to step up protests to prevent an overhaul of the organization, which has debts of 10 billion euros (US$12.7 billion).
Freight truckers, who staged a week-long protest in July that nearly starved the country of fuel, are also mobilizing to oppose the government's plans.
Unionists at another prominent state entreprise, the Public Power Corporation, are determined to oppose the sale of company assets demanded by the EU to break the PPC's near-monopoly control on the Greek energy market.
And civil servants are already in uproar over cuts to their wages and pensions enacted earlier this year to slash a budget deficit that was over four times the three-percent threshold permitted under European Union rules.
Public anger at the Socialists' policies, which are widely seen to have been imposed by the EU and the IMF in return for quick cash, is expected to manifest itself in local elections in November.
Sensing the danger, a number of ministers reportedly refused to stand as prospective candidates for local councils, and one was axed in a cabinet reshuffle this week because of it, political analysts said.
Fewer than a third of Greek voters would support the Socialists in a general election, a poll in Pontiki weekly showed on Thursday.
The survey by pollsters Pulse showed that the ruling party would garner 26.5 percent of the vote, nearly five points less than a poll by the same company in March.
Another 32.5 percent of over 1,000 eligible voters questioned are undecided.
Still, the polls show that they continue to hold an edge against their main rivals, the conservative New Democracy party, who fell from power in October after being overcome by corruption scandals.


Updated : 2021-04-11 23:38 GMT+08:00