Greece: Civil servants strike, services shut down ahead of EU, IMF visit

More than 9,000 public sector employees began a 48-hour strike Wednesday, to protest plans to fire public sector employees. The protests come ahead of a visit by the European Union, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund to evaluate Greece's progress on financial reforms. 

Nikolas Giakoumidis/AP
Teachers chant slogans during a protest at the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, on Wednesday. Thousands of civil servants marched through the Greek capital and the second largest city of Thessaloniki on Wednesday, as a two-day nationwide strike against planned job cuts shut down all public services.

Greek workers shut schools and forced hospitals to operate with only emergency staff on Wednesday at the start of a 48-hour strike against the latest plans to fire thousands of public sector employees.

Efforts to shrink the 600,000-strong civil service, long seen as wasteful and corrupt, have been resisted by labor unions who say the scheme will only worsen the plight of Greeks enduring a sixth year of recession.

The latest strikes, called by public sector umbrella union ADEDY, comes days before the "troika" of European UnionEuropean Central Bank and International Monetary Fund lenders visits Athens to check on progress made on promised reforms.

More than 9,000 workers, some waving black flags and banners reading "No to firings!" flooded the street in front of parliament in the central Syntagma Square, the focal point of anti-austerity protests.

"We want to tell the government enough is enough," said 54-year-old teacher Vasiliki Angelatou, a mother of two unemployed children who has had her salary more than halved since the crisis began.

"They are firing indiscriminately. We've reached our limits."

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has promised a population worn down by the worst post-war crisis that economic pain will ease next year once Greece returns to growth.

He has repeatedly branded Greece's efforts to reform as a European "success story" but that is cold comfort to Greeks after three years of austerity measures, plummeting living standards and rising unemployment.

"Where is the success story when our kids are going abroad because there are no jobs?" Angelatou asked.

Turnout at the rally was less than in the past, as Greeks show a growing sense of resignation.

Athens must put a total of 25,000 workers in a so-called "mobility scheme" by the end of the year, to be either transferred to other government jobs or dismissed. It must also meet a target of 15,000 mandatory job cuts in 2013-2014.

The troika has bailed out Greece to the tune of 240 billion euros ($320 billion) but has warned it will stop paying unless Athens pushes forward with reforming a corruption-prone state apparatus where hiring is often driven by political patronage.

Journalists, lawyers, municipal employees and staff at tax and customs offices were among those joining the walkout.

"A long, onerous and painful winter has begun," said ADEDY, which together with private sector union GSEE represents about 2.5 million workers.

The union said: "The truth is that with every troika visit, our national dignity is destroyed. The economy and society are ruined."

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Greece: Civil servants strike, services shut down ahead of EU, IMF visit
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today