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Greek reforms spark protest in Athens

Tuesday, 16 January, 2018 - 11:56

Greek deputies adopted on Monday a new package of reforms required by the country’s creditors, including imposing limits on the right to strike, provoking walkouts and demonstrations that caused huge traffic jams in Athens.

This catch-all law restructures family allowances and raises the threshold of votes required to call a strike in a company from 33 percent to more than 50 percent. Business leaders and international creditors hope that this measure will limit the frequency of strikes and improve productivity.

The law was adopted in the early evening by 154 votes in favour to 141 against. Some 20,000 people protested in the capital against reforms during the day. Some protesters threw paint and paving stones at the riot police protecting the parliament. Police responded with tear gas. No arrests took place.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, elected in 2015 on the radical left-wing program of his Syriza party, strongly rejected criticisms, emanating from the unions in particular, that the government was ready to limit the strikes. ” The strikes are neither abolished nor threatened by this government,” Tsipras told parliament.

Athens hopes that after this tranche of aid the government will be able to finance itself again entirely on the markets. “Today’s vote will be crucial to accelerate the country’s exit from the bailout in seven months,” Tsipras said.

Monday’s strike, which was backed by several unions, created huge traffic jams in Athens, due to the closure of public transport. An air traffic controllers’ strike also disrupted flights.

Greece has seen about 50 such strikes since 2010, following the austerity measures imposed by creditors in exchange for bailouts worth several hundred billion euros in total, granted by the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.

After the vote on Monday, Athens hopes that European finance ministers will approve on 22 January the payment of at least 4.5 billion euros of aid.

 


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