2012-11-06 19:05:18

Greeks strike on eve of austerity vote

Public services in Greece were paralysed for the second straight day today as the leading labour unions went on strike – a day before a crucial parliamentary vote on the latest spate of austerity measures.

Athenians had to go for another day without metro and commuter train services, while government offices were shut and thousands of disaffected people poured into central Syntagma Square in the unseasonal brilliant sunshine. Strong riot police forces were on hand to deal with any violence, though by midday the demonstration was largely peaceful.

It’s the latest show of muscle by Greece’s unions which are implacably opposed to any more austerity mandated by the IMF and European Commission. The constant salary and pensions cuts over the past two years, plus higher taxes, have brought many households to the brink of penury.

Within shouting distance of the protesters, in the Parliament building, Greece’s 300 deputies kicked off a debate on the latest austerity measures, which include yet more salary and pension cuts. The prime minister, Antonis Samaras, has made dramatic appeals for the measures to be endorsed. He has raised the spectre of mass poverty and social unrest if the measures are voted down and the next tranche of 31 billion euros in aid, in consequence, doesn’t arrive.

But one of Samaras’s ruling partners, the small Democratic Left party, vows not to vote for the measures, and a growing number of deputies of the socialists also say they won’t. The big opposition leftwing Syriza party, plus the communists and far-right Golden Dawn, will also vote no tomorrow. This leaves Samaras’s own centre-right New Democracy party with the burden of obtaining a parliamentary majority.

Given the pressure from an angry electorate, it’s by no means a foregone conclusion at this stage.

Listen to John Carr's report: RealAudioMP3

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