ATHENS, Sept 11 Greek unionists protesting
austerity measures formed a human chain to block the entrance to
the Labour Ministry on Tuesday, forcing a delay in talks between
ministry officials and the country's foreign lenders.
The talks with inspectors from the 'troika' of European
Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary
Fund were scheduled to start at 1000 GMT, but had yet to get
under way over an hour later as the protesters refused to leave.
Dozens from the Communist-aflliated PAME union chanted
anti-austerity slogans and unfurled banners reading "Troika,
IMF, ECB - Get out of here!" outside the ministry's main
"We're trying to find a way to get the troika officials into
the ministry," a government official said.
The semi-official Athens News Agency said the meeting would
Angry Greeks are lining up a string of protests against a
new round of belt-tightening demanded by the lenders as the
price for continued aid to avoid bankruptcy.
The country's two biggest unions say they plan a general
strike this month, while teachers, tax officials and tourism
workers are among various groups planning strikes and other work
stoppages this week.
The package of EU/IMF-mandated spending cuts worth nearly 12
billion euros over the next two years will further slash wages
and pensions of Greeks already reeling from previous rounds of
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's government must push
through the cuts to ensure the country gets its next round of
bailout money, but has run into trouble on the issue with both
troika officials and its own allies.
The troika wants Greece to toughen the package with a bolder
plan to cut the public sector workforce, officials say. But
Samaras has yet to convince his Socialist and leftist allies to
agree to the package even without the troika's suggestions to
make it tougher.
The moderate Democratic Left party, a junior partner in
Samaras's fragile three-party coalition, outlined objections on
Tuesday to plans for across-the-board cuts in holiday bonuses
for pensioners and reductions in disability benefits.
It suggested replacing those measures with proposals to cut
military spending and energy subsidies, and curbing waste in
Greece, which is struggling through its worst recession
since World War II,, must present the new cuts plan at a meeting
of euro zone finance ministers on Friday.