As thousands of protesters rallied in Athens and Thessaloniki on Monday, Parliament approved the prior actions included in an all-inclusive bill which the leftist-led coalition government hopes will be the last significant batch of spending cuts and reforms the country has to implement before its bailout program ends in August.
The 1,500-page austerity bill, which includes the demands by Greece’s international creditors to expedite auctions of foreclosed properties and changes to labor law that will make it harder for unions to call strikes, was approved by 154 lawmakers in the 300-seat Parliament. Some 141 lawmakers from main opposition New Democracy, Democratic Alignment, Golden Dawn and the Union of Centrists voted against all the provisions included in the bill.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told lawmakers that the approval of the multi-bill brings Greece “just one step from the end of the bailout.”
“In the summer, we will… leave behind a tough, unfair and harmful period,” he said, adding that the conclusion of the third review “gives hope to millions of our fellow citizens” but has caused agitation to others, referring to the parties of the opposition.
Tsipras rejected claims by the opposition that the new bill will ban the right to strike.
“The right to strike is a sacred conquest of the working class. It is not being scrapped and it is not under threat from this government,” he said.
For his part, New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis denounced Tsipras for “ransoming the country’s future” and damaging its economy.
“You are legislating articles that even you don’t agree with,” Mitsotakis said, addressing Tsipras in Parliament, adding that the leftist leader was pushing through measures he was elected to oppose and that he “turned lying into a profession and cynicism into an art.”
Mitsotakis also accused Tsipras and his SYRIZA party of “threatening” investors while they were in the opposition and refuted the government’s narrative that the country is heading for a clean bailout exit in August.
The vote in Parliament took place as around a total of 20,000 people in Athens and Thessaloniki marched in protest.
Police used pepper spray to disperse rock-throwing protesters outside Parliament. Some demonstrators also sprayed police with red paint.
Meanwhile, Monday's public transport strike – bus, tram, trolley and metro services – in opposition to the bill caused problems for commuters in the Greek capital.
The disruption also impacted state-run schools and public hospitals, with teachers and doctors holding work stoppages, while a three-hour walkout by air traffic controllers led to the rescheduling or cancellation of flights.