PM appeals for patience from workers

Workers gathered in Athens and Thessaloniki on the May Day public holiday yesterday to demand greater labor rights, as Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis promised to tackle persistent problems but admitted that there was a «long, hard» road ahead. Thousands of Greeks joined workers from around the world to mark the day with peaceful demonstrations. At least 7,000 people are estimated to have taken part in protests in Greece’s two largest cities. Among those marching in Athens were several famous faces, including American actor Tim Robbins and Aleida Guevara, the daughter of revolutionary Ernesto «Che» Guevara. It was the beginning of a busy week in Athens which will culminate with the European Social Forum, which begins in the city on Thursday and runs until Sunday. Several thousand anti-capitalists are expected in Athens for the event. The head of the Athens branch of the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE), Grigoris Felonis, told the crowd gathered in the city center yesterday that the government would have an «unprecedented» fight on its hands if it tried to make major changes to the social security system. He cited the recent protests by students and workers in France as an example of what could happen when governments tampers with labor rights. The message from the prime minister, however, was conciliatory. «We are determined to tackle the root causes of the problems,» said Karamanlis. «This is the only way we can create a solid framework of long-term sustainable development and prosperity.» He said that Greece had not been bold enough and blamed the previous PASOK government for putting off difficult decisions and adopting knee-jerk policies. Karamanlis did, however, ask for patience from voters. «The road that we have to travel is long and hard but we have a common stake,» said the prime minister. «Let us all walk together fighting for the major things that unite us.»