GREEK trade unionists marked the third day of their general strike yesterday by gathering outside parliament to denounce the Syriza government’s plans to impose further austerity measures in return for more bank-bailout money.
Last night’s Syntagma Square protest followed a massive demonstration on Saturday led by the Communist Party-linked Pame trade union body and joined by many small farmers.
Pame called further protests yesterday, as did the other labour federations, holding belated May Day events that were postponed last week to avoid clashing with Orthodox Easter celebrations.
Parliament sat last night to push through further tax and pension changes at the behest of the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund “troika.”
Greece has been denied its currently overdue loan instalment of €5 billion (£4bn) after clashing with its creditors over the need for more public-spending cuts.
The “radical left” Syriza government agreed to a third loan package worth €86bn (£60bn) last year, but it could default on €3.5bn in debt payments due in July if an agreement is not reached soon.
The troika are demanding that Greece implement further austerity measures to generate nearly €4bn in additional cuts over and above an agreed €5.4bn as contingency money in case Athens misses future budget targets.
The eurozone’s 19 finance ministers will gather in Brussels today to discuss Greece’s situation and to assess whether the government has cut deeply enough.
Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos wrote to the troika, insisting in a leaked letter that their demands are unmanageable.
“Any package above €5.4bn is doomed to be seen by Greek citizens and financial analysts … as socially and economically counterproductive,” he wrote.
“There is no way such a package can be passed by the current government, or by any democratic government that I can imagine.”
The finance minister has proposed an alternative approach of offering an automatic mechanism of spending cuts across ministries if the 2018 target starts looking unattainable to ensure its ability to meet the agreed fiscal goal set for that year.
“I believe that such a mechanism, coupled with the reforms package, is more than adequate to close the first bailout review,” Mr Tsakalotos wrote.