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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Greeks march and strike against privatisations ]

Greeks march and strike against privatisations

By Karolos Grohmann

ATHENS (Reuters) - Thousands of Greek workers walked off the job on Thursday and marched through central Athens in protest at the conservative government's privatisation plans.

Dock workers, hospital and civil aviation authority staff and workers at Greece's biggest phone company OTE walked out a day after the government agreed to sell a stake in OTE to Deutsche Telekom and share management with the German firm.

"This is how workers show their discontent with the government's sell-out policy," said Stathis Anestis, spokesman for the GSEE private sector umbrella union.

Dozens of flights were grounded and public offices were shut, as an estimated 3,500 protesters marched peacefully to parliament, holding banners reading "enough of reforms" and chanting "public property is not for sale".

Private and public sector unions, representing more than 2.5 million workers, pledged more strikes against privatisation, adding to pressure on the government which is pushing through difficult reforms with a slim majority in parliament.

"Workers have agreed to escalate the fight because they believe the government was elected on a platform to strengthen the economy and not to sell it off," Anestis said.

OTE labour unions have already pledged more strikes to protest against the deal with Deutsche Telekom, which is awaiting parliamentary and regulatory approval.

"We hope parliamentary deputies will resist and not ratify this disgraceful agreement," OTE's union said in a statement. "Our fight will become stronger and more determined."



The government, with only 151 deputies in the 300-seat government, hopes to privatise several other state-run concerns, including the main commercial ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki, to reduce public debt and increase competitiveness.

Although faced with labour unrest for months, first over pension reforms and now privatisations, the ruling party is expected to approve the deal.

Dockers have staged repeated strikes and refused to work overtime since the beginning of the year, causing serious delays in goods processing as containers pile up. They fear any sell-off will lead to job cuts.

They were backed by three-hour work stoppages at state carrier Olympic Airways, by air traffic controllers, by post office workers, and at electricity utility PPC, the Athens Water company and banks.

The controllers' and Olympic's strikes forced the carrier to scrap 40 flights to and from Athens and reschedule another 16 international and domestic flights.

Aegean Airlines cancelled 28 flights, most of which were domestic.

But truckers said on Thursday they had ended a 10-day strike which had dried up fuel supplies and caused long queues at filling stations, disruptions to businesses and transport and product shortages.

"Our demands haven't been fulfilled but we are suspending the strike, because we feel a social responsibility. We will give the government time to reconsider our demands," said Angelos Falaris, general secretary of the fuel truckers' union.


(Source: Financial Mirror)

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