Date: Wed, 1 Jan 97 09:12:36 CST
Week of protests against budget cuts
Workers World, 2 January 1997
The Greek parliament passed an austerity budget for 1997 on Dec. 21. The budget includes $4 billion in cuts and increased taxes and is designed to bring Greece into the European Monetary Union by 2001.
The budget has been a lightning rod for working class protest. Workers and farmers have taken to the streets in daily strikes and protests against the austerity measures.
For over three weeks, farmers have crippled the country's economy with barricades along major highway junctions. They are demanding state subsidies for their products and cheaper fuel.
The barricades went up on Nov. 28 when farmers joined unions in protesting the proposed 1997 austerity budget. Industrialists estimated that the blockades had already cost the Greek economy $500 million, with exports down 42 percent because of blockades at the borders of Turkey and Bulgaria.
Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis has refused to meet with the farmers. On Dec. 21, farmers' leader Yannis Pattakis vowed, "We are tightening the blockade. Simitis can't even be bothered to meet with us."
On Dec. 16, unions again joined the farmers' protests. Beginning with teachers and seafarers, thousands of workers joined in strikes against the budget cuts. Doctors, custom officials, students, civil servants, airport workers and even diplomatic staffs joined the strike call by Greece's two biggest union federations.
Members of Panhellenic Seamen's Federation (PNO) stayed off ships for the entire week, further crippling transport and commerce in the country. Port workers clashed with police and scabs trying to load and unload ships. On Dec. 20, the seafarers voted to call off their strike until Jan. 8, pending negotiations with the government.
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