Strikes aimed at sell-off of OTE

Thousands of workers marched though central Athens yesterday to express their opposition to the government’s privatization plans, vowing to press ahead with further protest action. Dozens of flights were grounded and public services such as post offices and the public power utility were hit by a three-hour work stoppage, as an estimated 3,500 protesters marched to Parliament, holding banners reading «Enough of reforms.» Police clashed briefly with strikers, firing tear gas to prevent bank employees from entering the headquarters of National Bank. No injuries or arrests were reported. In addition, about 2,000 students staged a peaceful demonstration against recent reforms at state universities. Protesters staged sit-ins at 10 universities. The protest action comes one day after the government agreed to sell parts of its stake in OTE telecom to Deutsche Telekom and share management of the Greek firm. «Workers have agreed to escalate the struggle because they believe the government was elected on a platform to strengthen the economy, not sell it off,» said Stathis Anestis, spokesman for umbrella union GSEE. Meanwhile, truck drivers called off their strike after shortages appeared in some food markets. The drivers said they are ending their strike «for the good of society as a whole.» Earlier, Transport Minister Costis Hatzidakis had left open the possibility of the government forcing them back to work by using its power of requisition.