Greeks go on strike ahead of Merkel visit
Normal life disrupted with schools and pharmacies shut as labour unions strike against austerity policies. Greek labour unions are staging a nationwide strike to protest against austerity policies imposed on the country by its foreign creditors, including Germany, whose chancellor, Angela Merkel, will visit Athens this week.
Schools and pharmacies were shut, ships remained docked at ports, hospitals operated on emergency staff and transport in Athens was disrupted on Wednesday due to the walkout called by private sector union, the General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE), and its public sector counterpart, the Civil Servants’ Confederation (ADEDY).
Thousands of striking workers, pensioners and the unemployed were expected to march to parliament around noon.
“This is our answer to the deadend policies that have squeezed workers and made Greek people miserable,” GSEE said in a statement. “We are striking and fighting to put an end to austerity”.
Unions said their anti-austerity message was also aimed at Merkel, who is due to meet Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in Athens on Friday. Germany has insisted on painful spending cuts and tax hikes in return for international loans.
GSEE and ADEDY have staged dozens of strikes since Greece’s first bailout in 2010, saying the measures prescribed by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund have hit the poor and worsened its six-year recession.
But protests have largely fizzled out, with low turnout blamed on a growing mood of resignation and protest fatigue.
Political analysts will be watching the turnout in Wednesday’s street protests.
The disruption is expected to be most keenly felt in maritime transport such as the ferry services to and between the Greek islands and also on the railways. Aljazeera