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Greeks protest over public transport sector reform bill ahead of parliament vote

02-16-2011 08:46 BJT

ATHENS, Feb. 15 (Xinhua)-- Greek parliament is expected to ratify by early Wednesday a wide public transport sector reform draft bill amidst a continuous wave of protests and strikes by labor unions.

Greek demonstrators hold a protest in front of the parliament building in
Athens, Greece, on Feb. 15, 2011. Employees of the public transport services
held a 24-hour strike over a draft bill on the restructure of the sector due
to be ratified by the parliament. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)

Public transport came to a halt in Athens on Tuesday once again due to a 24-hour strike over the controversial new law which envisages a partial privatization of the debt-ridden Greek Railways, the restructure of the sector and transfers of employees to other public companies to save costs.

The Greek government promoted the reform as essential in the context of a series of austerity and development measures to face the debt crisis which led Greece to the brink of bankruptcy last year.

On the other hand, labor unions of mass transport employees who have staged a long string of strikes and protests since last autumn, argue that the bill will eventually lead to poor services for Greek citizens and worse working conditions for employees. They warn that they will continue mobilizations despite the approval of the draft bill.

Hundreds of strikers marched in front of the Greek parliament building on Tuesday afternoon on foot and on motorbikes, chanting slogans such as "thieves get out" and "Greece is not for sale".

It was a reference to the recent suggestion of the European Union and the International Monetary Fund auditors who monitor Greek efforts to overcome the crisis, that the Greek government should speed up a privatization program of state enterprises and real estate properties to slash the Greek debt.

The idea and the "tone" of foreign inspectors have caused strong reactions in Athens.

"Greek land is not for sale. We examine the better exploitation of state assets for development and debt repayment, but the terms 'exploitation' and 'sale" should not be confused," said on Tuesday Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou.

He stressed that his government will seek legislative regulation which will block the sale of public land.


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