Greek metro workers have defied a court order to return to work and have staged the sixth day of strikes over the government’s spending cuts.
Athens was without a metro service on Tuesday for four to five hours, which comes in continuation to the protest started on Thursday over the planned cuts to metro workers’ salaries.
A Greek court ruled against Athens Metro Workers’ Union’s planned strikes and permitted the government to use force to make personnel return to work.
Union officials call on the government to abolish the planned changes to the public sector’s pay scales, which comes as Athens implements measures to satisfy its eurozone creditors.
Reductions in public sector workers’ incomes have made it harder for Greeks to make ends meet.
“With these latest cuts, someone like me who earned 1,300 euros per month will end up clearing something like 700 euros,” Metro Workers’ Union Head Antonis Stamatopoulos said.
“We cannot live on what we earn,” he added.
Stamatopoulos said that apart from stopping the changes to the pay cuts, the only way the government could make them return to work would be through force.
“Civil mobilization? They can enforce it if they want. Maybe they should come here with tanks to force us back to work,” Stamatopoulos said.
Parliament introduced new austerity measures in December 2012, which eurozone finance ministers approved for bailout packages of 9.2 billion euros on Monday and 34.3 billion euros last month.
Europe plunged into financial crisis in early 2008. The worsening debt crisis has forced the EU governments to adopt harsh austerity measures and tough economic reforms, which have triggered massive protests in many European countries.
A policeman strikes a photojournalist of AFP during the Portuguese general strike in Lisbon March 22, 2012.
Portuguese police have attacked demonstrators protesting nationwide against the government’s austerity measures.
Demonstrations were held on Thursday in 38 cities and towns across Portugal, including the capital city of Lisbon, Oporto – the second largest city after Lisbon — and Coimbra, AFP reported.
In Lisbon, police resorted to baton charge and arrests to disperse the protesters.
At least one demonstrator was arrested in Oporto as protesters expressed outrage at Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho during a visit to the northern city’s university.
The nationwide protests were part of a 24-hour strike against austerity measures adopted by the government in return for an international bailout. During the Thursday strike which was led by Portugal’s biggest union — the General Confederation of Portuguese Workers (CGTP) – public services across the country ground to a halt.
The trains and subways in Lisbon and Oporto, and the majority of ports, including the port of Lisbon and Viana do Castelo in the north, were shut down.
The strike is aimed at opposing changes to labor laws that make it easier to fire workers, reduce holidays and cut layoff compensation. The government argues that these changes will revive the economy.
Some European economies have introduced strict austerity plans to tackle their debt crises. The spending cuts have caused deep discontent among people in those countries.
Angel Gurria, secretary general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, said in a Thursday interview that the eurozone needs a bailout fund of at least 1 trillion euros ($1.3 trillion) to prevent its debt crisis from expanding to other European states.
Greece’s two largest unions have announced a 48-hour strike over the new austerity measures endorsed by the government in return for bailout loans.
The unions, General confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) and Civil Servants Supreme Administrative Council (ADEDY), announced on Thursday that their members will go on a two-day strike from Friday in protest at the controversial decision.
“We will hold a general strike on Friday and Saturday along with the civil servants’ union,” said a spokeswoman with GSEE which represents the private sector.
ADEDY’s Secretary General Ilias Iliopoulos described the measures as “painful” which will “create misery for youths, unemployed and pensioners do not leave us much room.”
“We are moving to a social uprising,” said Iliopoulos.
Greece has been the scene of repeated strikes since the country first resorted to bailouts from international lenders in 2010.
Leaders of the three parties backing Greece’s coalition government approved new austerity measures on Wednesday but failed to agree to creditors’ demands to make 300 million euros ($398 million) in pension cuts.
The country’s Prime Minister Lucas Papademos still hopes that the coalition leaders will strike a comprehensive deal by Thursday evening, his office said on Wednesday.
To secure a bailout package of 130 billion euros, Athens must first persuade the troika — the European Union (EU), International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the European Central Bank (ECB) — that it will implement long-delayed reforms and make further spending cuts.
Greece’s current debt stands at 340 billion euros ($440 billion) — a sum that equals around 31,000 euros debt per person in the country of 11 million people.
The country has, accordingly, the biggest debt burden in proportion to the size of its economy in the entire 17-nation eurozone.