Friday October 31, 2014 Search
Weather | Athens
19o C
12o C
News
Business
Comment
Life
Sports
Community
Survival Guide
Greek Edition
Greece approves scheme to fire thousands of public workers

By Renee Maltezou & George Georgiopoulos

Greece's shaky coalition government scraped through a vote on Wednesday on a bill to sack public sector workers as thousands chanting anti-austerity slogans protested outside parliament.

The vote was the first major test for Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's two-party coalition since losing an ally over the abrupt shutdown of the state broadcaster last month, which left it with a scant five-seat majority in the 300-seat parliament.

After midnight on Wednesday, 153 lawmakers out of the 293 present voted in favor of the bill, whose passage was required to unlock nearly 7 billion euros ($9.2 billion) in aid from European Union and International Monetary Fund lenders.

The bill includes deeply divisive plans for a transfer and layoff scheme for 25,000 public workers - mainly teachers and municipal police - that had triggered a week of almost daily marches, rallies and strikes in protest.

About 5,000 Greeks flooded the street outside parliament as the vote neared, with some chanting: "We will not succumb, the only option is to resist" and holding aloft black balloons - though turnout was much smaller than in protests last year.

"After 12 years on the job, they fire us in one night," Patra Hatziharalampous, a 52-year-old school guard in uniform said between sobs. "If they have any guts, they should say no to the bailout and take some of the bill's articles back."

The reforms were passed hours before German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble - Europe's leading proponent of austerity blamed by many Greeks for their woes - arrives in Athens for his first visit to Greece since the debt crisis began in 2009.

Before the vote, Samaras announced Greece's first tax cut since its crisis began nearly four years ago, in a bid to placate protests and an increasingly restive public mood.

"We will not relax," Samaras said in a surprise television address to announce that value-added tax (VAT) in restaurants would be cut to 13 percent from 23 percent starting August 1.

"We will continue climbing up the hill, we will reach the top, which is not far, and better days will come for our people."

In a clip that became an instant hit on social media site Twitter, television stations accidentally showed Samaras fumbling at an initial attempt to read the statement and swearing "Damn my head, ******" as he walked off the podium.

'Drawing blood'

The government had made a show of arguing for the restaurant VAT cut during its latest talks with lenders, and analysts said the move was a symbolic attempt to show austerity-hit Greeks that there was light at the end of the tunnel.

Samaras said the cut would help curb tax evasion, a major problem in the country and one of the reasons it slid into a debt crisis in 2009, but warned that if evasion persisted VAT would revert to 23 percent.

"The crucial thing is that it was announced now and not after the summer," said Thomas Gerakis, head of Marc Pollsters. "How it will benefit consumers remains to be seen."

Athens has been limping along on two bailouts worth over 240 billion euros ($315 billion) since 2010, which it has secured at the price of wage cuts and tax rises that have triggered a six-year recession and sent unemployment to 27 percent.

The latest bill agreed with lenders includes a luxury tax on houses with swimming pools and owners of high performance cars.

But the move that has drawn the most anger is the plan to place 25,000 workers into the layoff scheme by the end of 2013, giving them eight months to find another position or get laid off. Greece's public sector is widely seen as oversized, inefficient and filled with patronage hires, but many Greeks believe society can no longer go tolerate cuts or tax hikes.

Uniformed municipal police, garbage collectors in orange vests and hundreds of other public sector workers have taken to the streets of Athens almost daily on motorbikes in over a week of protests, blowing whistles, honking horns and blaring sirens. [Reuters]

ekathimerini.com , Thursday Jul 18, 2013 (01:43)  
A year after GD members shot dead, police have no leads
No new Manolada trial, court rules
Greece poised to send reform proposals to troika
Extended summer timetable at museums, sites hailed a success
Power rates soared 60 pct in six years
During the 2008-13 Greek recession, the country endured the steepest domestic electricity rate hikes seen anywhere in the European Union, amounting to a total of 60 percent over the six year...
NBG chairman sees risks to recovery
The chairman of National Bank of Greece warned on Thursday that political, economic and geopolitical risks pose a threat to the country’s recovery. “Unfortunately we made too much noise and ...
Inside Business
BASKETBALL
Obradovic watches Greens thrash his Fenerbahce
The second homecoming of former Panathinaikos coach Zeljko Obradovic, now at Fenerbahce, was not as emotional as last year’s, but it was certainly was the night of an emphatic triumph for th...
SOCCER
Berg returns to add spice to Panathinaikos´s Cup win
The second round of games for the group stage of the Greek Cup produced plenty of interesting games and results in midweek, but it still lags the upset potential that the knock-out stages of...
Inside Sports
COMMENTARY
The judiciary’s responsibility
The reform efforts over the past few years have begun to bear fruit. Greece has improved its standing in the World Bank’s Doing Business rankings, rising 48 positions from 2010 to 61st place...
COMMENTARY
Time is running out in Afghanistan
Thirteen years after the attacks on the Twin Towers and NATO's entry into the war in Afghanistan, things remain pretty much unchanged: Political instability and insecurity  reign in the Cent...
Inside Comment
SPONSORED LINK: FinanzNachrichten.de
SPONSORED LINK: BestPrice.gr
 RECENT NEWS
1. Obradovic watches Greens thrash his Fenerbahce
2. Berg returns to add spice to Panathinaikos´s Cup win
3. Power rates soared 60 pct in six years
4. NBG chairman sees risks to recovery
5. Greek consumers shift toward money saving
6. IMF could offer know-how in backup plan for Greece
more news
Today
This Week
1. Greek euro dilemma is back as minister predicts volatility
2. Students hijack university senate meeting
3. Clientelism belongs to the past, says Mitsotakis
4. European stocks tumble as banks decline after Enria’s comments
5. Civil servants to be investigated for transferring money abroad
6. Over 1,500 buildings and vehicles damaged in flash floods
Today
This Week
1. Austria’s creative bookkeeping beats Greece on secret debts
2. End of reason, end of humanity
3. Clean bill of health for Greek banks from stress tests
4. Samaras pledges action after flash floods in Athens
5. Eurobank, National Bank restructurings eliminate capital gap
6. Athens flood damage assessed, compensation payments to begin
   Find us ...
  ... on
Twitter
     ... on Facebook   
About us  |  Subscriptions  |  Advertising  |  Contact us  |  Athens Plus  |  RSS  |   
Copyright © 2014, H KAΘHMEPINH All Rights Reserved.