Workers in Greece walked out in a general strike to support the employees of the public broadcaster ERT which was abruptly shut down by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras earlier this week.
The PM has agreed to meet two of his coalition partners who have voiced their opposition to his action. The meeting is seen as a move to defuse a growing political crisis, though Samaras has stressed he will not back down. One senior official predicted a compromise may be reached.
Our correspondent in Athens Stamatis Giannisis says “The government’s decision to pull the plug on the public broadcaster is not only a test of determination for the employees in keeping the station running. It is also a test of the strength of the government coalition, as shutting it down seems to have seriously damaged its unity.”
Reacting to the swell of protests one conservative newspaper trumpeted, “Either there’s a solution in a week or its elections.” Among the protesters was Alexsi Tsipras the leader of the opposition Syriza party
“The public TV signal is only cut off when a sovereign country is conquered by foreign powers or when a democracy falls to a dictatorship,” he said.
Athens has described the shut down as a temporary measure. Around 2,600 employees who work at ERT are set to lose their jobs though the government has promised to compensate them.
“The government has decided the burial of public television. I can’t accept that,” said Nassos Athanasiou a former ERT anchor.
“Fire Samaras and not the workers,” read one of the protester’s banners. Analysts believe pulling the plug on the ERT has pushed Greece into its most serious political crisis since the coalition came to power a year ago.