The third general strike within a month paralysed Greece as thousands of public and private sector workers took to the streets in protest against government austerity measures designed to pull the country out of a spiralling debt crisis.
More than 20,000 people marched through Athens beating drums and chanting slogans blaming “plutocrats” for the deficit of 12.7% – more than four times higher than eurozone rules allow.
The unions say the EU should be doing more to help. Jannis Panagopolous, President of the General Confederation of Greek Workers said: “It is not a Greek problem it is a European problem, the problem of the single surrency.
“The stronger countries of Europe must give the opportunity to Greece to get a loan at the same conditions as other countries to stop the speculators’ attack on the Greek people.”
The government has said it sympathises with public anger over tax rises, wage cuts and a pension freeze, but is refusing to back down.
Civil servant Maria Papayanou said: “We do support the euro but we don’t want to be seen as the poor relations of Europe.”
A Greek Orthodox priest who joined the strike rally said: “I have come here to protest with the workers because before I became a priest I worked for 10 years in the building sector. Does the government not recognise all the social rights quotas that I have already paid for?”
During the strike protest in the capital stone-throwing youths clashed with riot police who baton charged the protesters and dispersed them with tear gas.
Two protesters and 13 police officers were injured. Sixteen demonstrators were arrested but the level of violence was much lower than the riots in 2008
that followed the police killing of a teenager.
Protests unlikely to change Greek austerity plans