The strike, the second called this year by the country’s two main umbrella unions, comes just days before the government is to present Parliament with €26 billion ($37.4 billion) in further spending cuts and tax increases to slash the budget deficit over the next five years.
“These neoliberal and barbarous policies, which are driving workers and society into poverty for the benefit of creditors and bankers, are taking us back to the last century,” said public-sector union Adedy in a statement. “They must not pass!”
Greece’s public-sector workers—such as teachers, local government staff and workers at state-owned enterprises—have been hardest hit by the overhauls so far. Their wages have been cut by as much as 25% in some cases, and some of their other benefits and entitlements also have been reduced.
Vassilis Theodorakopoulos, a 53-year-old dental technician who works for the country’s main public health-care fund, said he was protesting a 20% cut in his salary, as well as a plan to expand the working week for public servants to 40 hours—in line with the private sector—from 37½ hours currently.
“Personally, I don’t think there should be a difference between the public and private sector,” he said. “What we are fighting for is a reduction in private-sector working hours.”
He said he also objects to a plan to eliminate free dental braces for children, his specialty.