Unions step up pressure over cuts and hikes

A showdown between one of Greece?s most militant unions, GENOP, which represents workers at the Public Power Corporation, and the government seems inevitable after electricity workers late Wednesday took over the firm?s billing department to stop it from sending bills containing the emergency property tax to homeowners.

Environment and Energy Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou appealed to GENOP to end its protest and said that he would order a prosecutor to intervene if the sit-in continues. The property tax, which will see homeowners charged between 0.5 and 20 euros per square meter, was designed to raise some 2 billion euros by the end of the year.

GENOP?s action added to the tension between the government and the labor unions, which are opposed to the latest austerity measures that include a move to place 30,000 public sector workers in a labor reserve.

Public transport workers will begin a 48-hour strike today and are due to hold a protest in front of Parliament at 11 a.m. Only the Proastiakos suburban railway will be running. Customs officials also announced that they will begin from on Thursday a 10-day strike, which could cause shortages of a number of goods, including food and fuel.

State hospital staff are due to walk off the job on Thursday between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Employees at state broadcaster ERT will begin a 48-hour strike Thursday, while taxi drivers will not be working Friday.

The disruption this week is likely to be just a foretaste of next week?s upheaval as the civil servants? union (ADEDY) proposed that the 24-hour general strike planned for Wednesday be extended to a 48-hour strike. The private sector union (GSEE) had not responded to the call by last night.

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