Large protest against Greek pension reform ends in violence

ATHENS, Greece -- Tens of thousands joined anti-government protests in Athens on Thursday as Greece was crippled by a general strike against a bailout-related overhaul of the country's ailing pension system.

See Full Article

Police said some 40,000 people joined the demonstrations, which were mostly peaceful before sporadic clashes between anarchist protesters and police outside Parliament and in other parts of the city centre.

Police used tear gas and stun grenades against the dozens of hooded anarchists. Street vendors, tourists, and onlookers ran to safety as the violence broke out, while a journalist was attacked by rioters and taken to hospital but was not in serious condition, police said.

Protests were also held in at least a dozen other Greek cities and towns, where several rallies were joined by protesting farmers driving their tractors.

Unions are angry at pension reforms that are part of Greece's third international bailout. The government, which is led by the left-wing Syriza, is trying to overhaul the pension system by increasing social security contributions to avoid pension cuts, but critics say the reforms will lead many to pay up to three quarters of their income in pension contributions and taxes.

Opposition to the reform has been widespread, uniting a disparate group of professions, including farmers, artists, taxi drivers, lawyers, doctors, vets, engineers and seamen.

Thursday's general strike is the most significant the government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, which is in coalition with the right-wing Independent Greeks, has faced since coming to power a little more than a year ago.

The disruption was wide-ranging. Schools and many private businesses were closed while transport, including flights and ferries, faced delays and cancellation. The strike also stopped the flow of thousands of migrants and refugees travelling from the Greek islands where they make landfall.

State-run hospitals were functioning on emergency staff, while farmers maintained their blockades of highways that have forced motorists into lengthy detours.

The strike comes as international bailout inspectors met Labor Minister George Katrougalos to discuss the pension reforms. The central Athens hotel where the inspectors were staying was heavily guarded by police.

The Greek government has to meet a series of conditions to get money from its third international bailout, which is worth around 80 billion euros ($89 billion). Having cleared the first set of conditions, it is now discussing the next batch of reforms required.

Once cleared, it will be due further funds from the bailout as well as a promise to discuss the size of Greece's debt burden, which despite years of austerity still stands at a staggering 175 per cent of the country's annual GDP.

The pension reform is difficult for Syriza, which, while still in opposition, had led protests against pension reforms. However Tsipras was forced to ditch his earlier stance when faced with the stark choice of signing up to a third bailout or the country having to leave the euro currency.

Syriza's difficulties with the pension reform plan were evident in the party's statement that it was backing Thursday's strike.

Athens pensioner Yannis Kouvalakis said Tsipras' government had "fooled" Greeks by promising to reverse austerity cuts.

"Because they are from the left, what happened? Was the situation saved?" he said. "Things got worse."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Sri Lanka death toll after flooding, mudslides reaches 146

    World News CBC News
    Sri Lankan rescuers pulled out more bodies under enormous mudslides on Sunday as the death toll climbed to 146 with 112 others missing. Although the weather has cleared, more rains are forecast for Sunday and Monday, threatening to bring more misery to over 100,000 displaced in the country's western and southern regions that were lashed by two days of torrential rains. Source
  • No winner in $5M Lotto 649 jackpot draw

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO - There was no winning ticket for the $5 million jackpot in Saturday night's Lotto 649 draw. However, the guaranteed $1 million prize was claimed by a ticket purchased in Atlantic Canada. The jackpot for the next Lotto 649 draw on May 31 will be approximately $7 million. Source
  • Pope says Coptic Christians killed by ISIS in Egypt were 'martyrs'

    World News CBC News
    For the second day in a row, Pope Francis has expressed his solidarity with Egypt's Coptic Christians following an attack on a bus carrying Coptic pilgrims to a remote desert monastery. Francis led thousands of people in prayer Sunday for the victims, who Francis said were killed in "another act of ferocious violence" after having refused to renounce their Christian faith. Source
  • Manchester bomber's network potentially still at large

    World News CBC News
    Members of Manchester suicide bomber Salman Abedi's network are still potentially at large, British interior minister Amber Rudd said on Sunday, after the terrorism threat level was lowered due to significant progress in the investigation. Police have said they have arrested a large part of the network behind the bombing, which killed 22 people at a concert Source
  • British Airways aims to restore normal flight service after IT failure

    World News CBC News
    British Airways said Sunday it was still working to restore its computer systems and has resumed some flights from London airports, a day after a global IT failure crippled its services. The airline said that it hopes to operate a "near normal schedule" at Gatwick and the "majority of services" from Heathrow on Sunday. Source
  • Artist urging Supreme Court to preserve residential school testimony

    Canada News CBC News
    An artist who's the son of a residential school survivor is urging the Supreme Court of Canada to rule to preserve the stories of more than 35,000 people like his father so future generations can learn from the tragic chapter in the country's history. Source
  • Civilians in 'grave danger' in final push against ISIS in Mosul

    World News CBC News
    The United National humanitarian co-ordinator in Iraq says civilians are being hit hardest as the military assault against ISIS militants in Mosul enters its final phase. Lise Grande has condemned ISIS for using civilians to shield themselves from attack. Source
  • How Andrew Scheer rose through the ranks to become Conservative leader

    Canada News CBC News
    Andrew Scheer is no stranger to making Canadian political history. When he first sought federal political office in 2004, he beat out the NDP candidate who at the time was the longest-serving MP in the House of Commons. Source
  • CBC News takes home 44 awards at 2017 RTDNA

    Canada News CBC News
    ?CBC News journalists scooped up 44 awards on Saturday at the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) awards, honouring national and regional work in TV, web and radio. "All these awards recognize our excellence on all platforms," said CBC News editor in chief Jennifer McGuire, noting the CBC took home the lion's share of the 75 awards. Source
  • Family, friends hail the 2 men who died trying to stop attack

    World News CTV News
    PORTLAND, Ore. -- Helpful co-workers. Reliable friends. Well-liked by many who encountered them. Those were the descriptions family, friends and colleagues gave of Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, 23, and Rick Best, 53, the two men who were stabbed to death Friday when they tried to intervene when a man yelled racial slurs at two young women who appeared to be Muslim on a Portland light-rail train. Source