Sunday March 29, 2015 Search
Weather | Athens
14o C
09o 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)  
Disabled convicts to be freed early
Greek energy minister starts two-day visit to Russia on Monday
Opposition tells Tsipras to get control of his party
Vitsentzos Kornaros passenger ferry finally on its way
Fitch downgrades Greece amid bailout uncertainty
Ratings agency Fitch has downgraded Greeces sovereign rating amid growing uncertainty over the new government's pledge to overhaul reforms needed to restart bailout loan payments and avoid d...
Bank accounts continue to bleed
Pressures on Greek bank deposits have continued in March, with sector officials estimating that households and enterprises have withdrawn a net 3 billion euros in the first weeks of this mon...
Inside Business
BASKETBALL
Greens live dangerously in Istanbul
Panathinaikos played with fire in Istanbul, but still managed to beat Galatasaray 86-84 on Friday and climb to the third sport of its group two games before the end of the Euroleague top-16....
SOCCER
Greek federation backs injured Holebas
The Greek soccer federation on Friday insisted that international defender Jose Holebas had been dropped from team training in Austria because of injury and not for any other reason. Media r...
Inside Sports
COMMENTARY
Lets change the subject
Lets talk about the weather. The cloudy skies, the rain, storms and humidity, the overall heavy atmosphere. Its better to think of that than politics and politicians, whatever cuts they ma...
EDITORIAL
Too little, too late?
Many of the measures that are rumored to comprise part of the list that the Greek government is expected to submit to the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Mon...
Inside Comment
SPONSORED LINK: FinanzNachrichten.de
SPONSORED LINK: BestPrice.gr
RECENT NEWS
1. Disabled convicts to be freed early
2. Greek energy minister starts two-day visit to Russia on Monday
3. Opposition tells Tsipras to get control of his party
4. Vitsentzos Kornaros passenger ferry finally on its way
5. Foreign laborer dies after falling from 3rd floor of Iraklio building
6. A 5.3 Richter quake rattles area between Crete and Kasos
more news
Today
This Week
1. Fitch downgrades Greece amid bailout uncertainty
2. Opposition tells Tsipras to get control of his party
3. Let's change the subject
4. Greek energy minister starts two-day visit to Russia on Monday
5. Too little, too late?
6. Disabled convicts to be freed early
Today
This Week
1. Next Monday is D-Day for state funds
2. PM faces Merkel amid race to detail reforms
3. Some more equal than others
4. Greece to present reforms by Monday, says gov't spokesman [Update]
5. Looking at the Chinese model
6. Greece optimistic on deal with euro area next week
Find us ...
... on
Twitter
... on Facebook
About us  |  Subscriptions  |  Advertising  |  Contact us  |  Athens Plus  |  RSS  |   
Copyright 2015, H KAΘHMEPINH All Rights Reserved.