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Teachers occupy television station over austerity measures

Other News Materials 4 May 2010 03:41 (UTC +04:00)
At least 20 teachers occupied Greece's state television station Monday to protest the government austerity package that is set to slash wages and pensions in exchange for a multi- billion-euro European Union-International Monetary Fund bailout.
Teachers occupy television station over austerity measures

At least 20 teachers occupied Greece's state television station Monday to protest the government austerity package that is set to slash wages and pensions in exchange for a multi- billion-euro European Union-International Monetary Fund bailout, DPA reported.

Police officials said the teachers forced their way into the television station, clashing with security guards, and proceeded to stop a scheduled interview with Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou.

The teachers, the majority of whom work part-time, agreed to leave the building after their demands were broadcast live.

"We are protesting the recent firing of more than 17,000 part-time teachers, and the government measures which seek to reduce the education level of the country to its lowest level," a representative of the group said on television.

"We blame the policies of the government and the IMF and want it to leave Greece."

The teachers are angry over pay and pension cuts, which the government has imposed on public-sector employees as part of budget cuts worth 30 billion euros over three years. The measures will target the country's bloated public sector, which makes up roughly a third of the workforce.

Many teachers end up working for years on part-time salaries as low as 450 euros a month, with no benefits, the teachers' union said.

Greece's Socialist government rushed to push a fresh round of spending cuts through Parliament on Monday, in defiance of a public backlash against the terms of the 110-billion-euro EU-IMF bailout.

The budget cuts, which include tax hikes, public-sector pay freezes and pension cuts, are aimed at slashing the public deficit to less than 3 per cent of annual output by 2014, from 13.6 per cent last year.

Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said the government would scrap holiday bonuses - totalling two months salary - for public sector workers and pensioners, raise the retirement age for women from 60 to 65, bringing it into line with that for men, and raise the sales tax from 21 per cent to 23 per cent this year.

Greece's main unions pledged more strikes Monday in response to the government's austerity package.

In response, the country's largest public-sector union, ADEDY, which represents about 750,000 employees, said it would stage a 48- hour strike starting Tuesday, instead of the one-day strike it had previously planned for Wednesday.

Hundreds of flights will be disrupted Tuesday after the country's civil aviation authority said it would only carry out one flight per destination. Greece's airspace will be completely closed to all incoming and outgoing flights on Wednesday, stranding thousands of travellers.

On Wednesday, the country's civil servants and air-traffic controllers will be joined by private-sector workers who have called for a general strike.

Meanwhile, hundreds of teachers and rubbish collectors marched Monday through central Athens behind a dozen garbage trucks, holding signs that read "hands off our salaries."

Hundreds of armed forces personnel held a silent protest in central Athens to protest a 30-per-cent reduction in their salaries while other professionals such as police, firefighters and coast guard are resigning by the hundreds in reaction to the news.

"I have been in this job for 31 years, and with these new measures I will be losing 6,500 euros annually from my salary," said Dimitris Georgantzis, head of the police officers' association.

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