Labor unions ratchet up pressure on Greek government

Greece will experience a series of strikes on Thursday as unions step up their action against the government’s austerity policies.

The coalition was given a taste on Wednesday of what might lie ahead when members of the Communist Party-affiliated union, PAME, took over Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis’s office. The protest was in response to comments Vroutsis had made about the social security system.

Riot police were deployed to remove the protesters and 35 people were taken into custody. PAME denied the government’s claims that Labor Ministry offices were damaged during the protest and KKE leader Aleka Papariga returned from a visit to farmers demonstrating in Thessaly to demand the release of those detained. SYRIZA also called for their release.

Government sources suggested that the incident was prompted by KKE’s bid to take a more active stance after seeing SYRIZA try to adopt a more moderate position on Greece’s economic policies.

There will be no buses or trolley buses in Athens on Thursday, while the Proastiakos suburban railway and trains on the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) network will also be out of action. The metro will stop at Doukissis Plakentias station as the rest of the line to Athens International Airport is operated by OSE.

The capital’s metro, electric railway and tram will run normally as workers on these fixed-track modes of transport were issued with civil mobilization orders last week. The nine-day strike on the metro and stoppages on the electric railway and tram cost transport authorities about 6 million euro in lost ticket revenues.

The Public Power Corporation (PPC) workers’ union, GENOP-DEI, has called a 24-hour strike for Thursday in support of transport employees.

Hospitals and healthcare centers will be operating on skeleton staffs Thursday as doctors and nurses walk off the job to protest shortages and poor working conditions. Unions claim that there is a lack of 6,000 extra doctors and another 20,000 hospital staff.

The civil servants’ union, ADEDY, has lent its support to the strike and has called on members to walk off the job from noon until the end of the early shift.

A 48-hour strike by the Panhellenic Seamen’s Federation also begins on Thursday. The sailors are protesting a change to the law that would allow ferry firms to employee less staff for sailings between November 1 and March 31.