Marchers shut down central Athens in financial protest

Story highlights

  • March accompanies one-day strike that shuts down Athens International Airport, schools
  • Public workers say they've lost 40% of take-home pay
  • Greece's finance minister says country will miss deficit target by $2 billion this year
  • The school year began without textbooks

At least 10,000 marchers shut down the center of the Greek capital Wednesday to protest the latest waves of austerity measures announced by the government.

The march accompanied a one-day strike in the public sector that shut down Athens International Airport, government ministries and schools. Hospitals operated on skeleton staffs, and some commuter rail services were closed.

The marchers shouted slogans against the government and the threesome overseeing Greece's $146 billion bailout: the European Central Bank, European Commission and International Monetary Fund.

The protesters were unionized public sector workers, angry at the pay cuts they have suffered which, they say, amount to as much as 40% of take-home pay. The best paid 100,000 public sector workers will lose another 20% of their pay, the finance ministry recently announced.

State workers are also worried about impending layoffs. Earlier this week the government announced it would retire 30,000 people in a bid to cut 300 million euros in operating costs next year.

The 2012 budget, which was handed to parliament on Monday, contains a further $6.7 billion dollars' worth of spending cuts. Public sector unions fear that many of those savings will come from layoffs.

Strike brings Athens to a standstill
Strike brings Athens to a standstill


    Strike brings Athens to a standstill


Strike brings Athens to a standstill 01:35
Will Greece get back on track?
Will Greece get back on track?


    Will Greece get back on track?


Will Greece get back on track? 02:00
Critical vote for eurozone bailout fund
Critical vote for eurozone bailout fund


    Critical vote for eurozone bailout fund


Critical vote for eurozone bailout fund 02:45
Can Germany help save Greece?
Can Germany help save Greece?


    Can Germany help save Greece?


Can Germany help save Greece? 02:28

The latest cuts are a bid by the Greek government to qualify for the sixth installment of its bailout plan, worth some $10.6 billion. Without the money, the government can only pay salaries and pensions until mid-November.

Greece's finance minister on Sunday told the cabinet that the country would fall short of its deficit target this year by $2 billion. The reason, he said, is that the economy has shrunk by 5.5%, far more than the 3.8% originally forecast. "We are forced to take decisions much faster than we would wish," Prime Minister George Papandreou told the cabinet.

Greece's deficit this year will be 18.69 billion euros ($24.9 billion), or 8.5% of GDP, as opposed to the originally forecast 17.1 billion euros ($22.77 billion) or 7.8%.

The government will aim to achieve a 2012 deficit of 14.65 billion euro ($19.51 billion) or 6.8% of GDP, by combining 2011 and 2012 goals. Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos believes this will give Greece a primary surplus next year of 3.2 billion euros ($4.2 billion).

The government's cashflow problems are disrupting education. The school year began on September 12, but the education ministry was embarrassed to admit that it still hadn't printed textbooks. Those are still being run off the presses and the ministry expects to have delivered all of them by the end of October. In the meantime, angry high school students staged sit-ins at their schools.

On Tuesday, 540 of the country's 11,000 high schools were shut down as a result. Wednesday's marchers included many of those students.

      Markets in crisis

    • German Chancellor Angela Merkel talks with Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble during a session at the Bundestag (lower house of parliament) on June 25, 2013 in Berlin.

      Schaeuble: 'Don't see' bailouts

      German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble says the eurozone's problems are not solved, but "we are in a much better shape than we used to be some years ago."
    • IBIZA, SPAIN - AUGUST 21:  A man dives into the sea in Cala Salada beach on August 21, 2013 in Ibiza, Spain. The small island of Ibiza lies within the Balearics islands, off the coast of Spain. For many years Ibiza has had a reputation as a party destination. Each year thousands of young people gather to enjoy not only the hot weather and the beaches but also the array of clubs with international DJ's playing to vast audiences. Ibiza has also gained a reputation for drugs and concerns are now growing that the taking and trafficking of drugs is spiralling out of control.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

      Spain keeps partying

      Summer could not have come soon enough for Lloret de Mar, a tourist resort north of Barcelona. Despite the country's troubles, it's partying.
    • The Euro logo is seen in front of the European Central bank ECB prior to the press conference following the meeting of the Governing Council in Frankfurt/Main, Germany, on April 4, 2013.

      OECD: Slow recovery for Europe

      The global recovery has two speeds: That of the stimulus-fed U.S. and that of the austerity-starved eurozone, according to a new report.
    • The flags of the countries which make up the European Union, outside the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

      Europe's new threat: Slow decay

      The "rich man's club" of Europe faces economic decay as it struggles to absorb Europe's "poor people", according to economic experts.
    • Packed beaches and Brit pubs? Not necessarily. Here's what drew travelers to one of Spain's most beautiful regions in the first place

      Spain aims for big tourist summer

      Spain's economic crisis is in its sixth straight year yet tourism, worth 11% of GDP, is holding its own, one of the few bright spots on a bleak horizon.
    • Photographer TTeixeira captured these images from a May Day protest in Porto, Portugal, Wednesday by demonstrators angered by economic austerity measures. "People protested with great order, but showed discontent against the government who they blame for this economic crisis," she said. "They want the government to resign and the Troika [European Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank] out of this country."

      May Day protesters flood Europe

      As European financial markets close for the spring celebration of May Day, protesters across Europe and beyond have taken to the streets to demonstrate.
    • Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic delivers a speech in Mostar, on April 9, 2013. Prime Ministers from Bosnia's neighboring countries arrived in Bosnia with their delegations to attend the opening ceremony of "Mostar 2013 Trade Fair".

      Croatia PM: We need Italy to recover

      As Croatia prepares to enter the 27-nation European Union, the country's Prime Minister says Italy must return to being the "powerhouse of Europe."
    • Anti-eviction activists and members of the Platform for Mortgage Victims (PAH) take part in a protest against the government's eviction laws in front of the Popular Party (PP) headquarters in Mallorca on April 23, 2013.

      Spain's unemployment hits record

      Spain's unemployment rate rose to a record high of 27.2% in the first quarter of 2013, the Spanish National Institute of Statistics said Thursday.
    • People protest against the Spanish laws on house evictions outside the Spanish parliament on February 12, 2013 in Madrid, Spain.

      Welcome to Madrid: City of protests

      Spain has seen hundreds of protests since the "Indignados" movement erupted in 2011, marches and sit-ins are now common sights in the capital.