General Strikes in Greece, Spain (Independent Ireland 30/6/10)
Dozens of masked youths clashed with police yesterday at a union protest in Athens during a general strike against the cash-strapped Greek government’s planned pension and labour reforms.
Similar strikes in Spain also led to arrests and clashes with police.
Greek riot police fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse troublemakers who threw chunks of marble smashed off a metro station entrance and set rubbish bins on fire.
The violence came as 10,000 people took part in a demonstration organised by the country’s two main unions and fringe left-wing groups. A separate march by 5,000 members of the Communist Party-backed PAME union ended peacefully.
Public services shut down across Greece as workers walked off the job as the strike disrupted public transport, left hospitals operating on emergency staff and pulled all news broadcasts off the air.
They are protesting against draft legislation that would increase retirement ages and make it cheaper for companies to fire workers. The measures are aimed at fixing the country’s debt crisis, which has shaken the entire eurozone. Similar protests in May also turned violent, with three workers dying in a bank torched by rioters.
Greece is caught in a major debt and deficit crisis. It avoided bankruptcy last month only after receiving the first installment of a €110bn emergency loan package from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
In Spain, similar strikes against austerity measures caused transport havoc in Madrid and led to clashes between police. Subway trains stopped running because of the stoppage to protest against public sector wage cuts ordered by the government. Spain is struggling to emerge from nearly two years of recession following the collapse of its construction sector which had earlier fuelled a decade of economic boom.
Besides its swollen deficit problems, it also has an unemployment rate of 20pc, the highest in the EU.
– William Fernie in Athens