Greek Unions Striking Against New Austerity Measures

Posted February 10th, 2012 at 6:05 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Union members in Greece launched a two-day general strike Friday in Athens, the capital, protesting new austerity measures needing the approval of lawmakers.

European finance ministers meeting in Brussels Thursday night said even with parliament’s approval, Greece has to meet new conditions before securing a new $172 billion bailout package.

The chairman of the 17 euro zone finance chiefs group, Jean-Claude Juncker, said the Greek parliament must approve the current package of austerity measures on Sunday, Greece needs to reduce spending another $430 million this year to meet its deficit targets and, thirdly, Greek political leaders must assure the austerity measures implemented will remain in place after the April elections.

Mr. Juncker says each requirement must be met before the finance ministers make a final decision, which could come at their meeting next Wednesday.

“No disbursement before implementation, because we cannot live with a system where promises are made and repeated and repeated and where the implementation measures are from time to time too weak.”

Meantime, following a lengthy negotiating session that ended early Thursday, Greek political leaders remained deadlocked on the extent of pension cuts for retirees, while agreeing to trim the country’s minimum wage by 22 percent and eliminate 15,000 government jobs.

Prime Minister Lucas Papademos and his coalition partners announced they had found an unspecified, alternative way to pare government spending, marking a key turning point after weeks of negotiations with Greece’s creditors.

Greece says it needs the aid package from the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund in order to avoid defaulting on $19 billion in bond payments due in March.

The Athens government is also completing negotiations with private lenders to cut in half the amount it owes them, a $132 billion reduction. Under the revised financing of the country’s debt, 32 large financial institutions would lose 70 percent of their Greek investment.

European leaders have grown impatient with Greece’s protracted negotiations over its debt, with financial analysts voicing fears that a default could plunge the global economy into a new recession. Meanwhile, Greek leaders have faced widespread opposition at home from workers angered by earlier austerity measures. Unions called for more work stoppages on Friday and Saturday to protest the latest budget-cutting plan.

Even with the agreement on more austerity, Greece remains in a precarious financial state. It is in the fifth year of a recession. The government says the country’s unemployment rate is increasing and reached nearly 21 percent in November.