Monday

27th Mar 2017

Greek civil servants block troika from entering finance ministry

Inspectors from the so-called troika of the EU, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund returned to Athens on Thursday (29 September) to review the Greek government’s austerity work only to find staff from seven key ministries blockading their way.

Furious at fresh pay cuts and mass lay-offs, civil servants occupied the ministries of finance, development, labour, justice, health, agriculture and interior affairs, according to local reports.

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  • Social unrest has spread to the finance ministry itself (Photo: John D. Carnessiotis, Athens, Greece)

Finance minister Evangelos Venizelos was scheduled to meet with the troika inspectors, but was forced to meet at the deputy prime minister’s offices when his own building was inaccessible.

Some of the occupations are to continue on Friday, with the sit-in at the Hellenic Statistical Authority due to continue through Sunday.

The union representing public-sector workers, Adedy, said the staff are engaging in direct action against "the barbaric new measures which have been decided and are being decided.”

Further social unrest was seen on the streets of the capital, as state employees and taxi drivers mounted protests in the centre of the city, while students skirmished with riot police in the country’s second city, Thessaloniki.

Despite the tense atmosphere, once the troika and Venizelos found a place to talk, their meeting was reportedly "positive and constructive."

The government has announced an acceleration of salary reductions in the public sector, with legislation to be presented to parliament next week that will also involve a limitation on bonuses paid out.

The inspectors - who left Greece suddenly on 2 September out of frustration at the government’s slowness in delivering on the austerity and structural adjustment demanded by international lenders - must decide whether Athens has made sufficient effort towards these targets to be awarded the latest, sixth tranche of EU-IMF bail-out cash, worth some €8 billion.

Without the funds, the government is expected to run out of money by mid-October.

The schedule for the release of the tranche is tight. Talks between the troika mission to Greece and the government are not expected to be finished ahead of a meeting of EU finance ministers on Monday in Luxembourg.

It is understood that for Greece to be given the green light, the government must have passed the new labour reserve system under which employees see wages slashed ahead of likely lay-offs, a transformation of the public-sector pay system and completed the draft budget for next year.

Prime Minister George Papandreou is due to meet with French leader Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday and a special cabinet meeting has been announced for Sunday.

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The very people who have been charged with protecting the Greek parliament and politicians from furious crowds and who have even been criticised by Amnesty International for their heavy-handedness, the Greek police, have themselves now begun to protest EU-IMF austerity.

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