24-hour Greek media blackout ahead of broader strike action
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek journalists walked off work for 24 hours Tuesday ahead of a broader nationwide strike that is expected to cripple transport services as austerity-weary labor unions press for salary and pension raises and tax cuts.
No news programs were being broadcast on TV and radio, while newspapers will not be printed on Wednesday, the day of the strike called by GSEE, the country’s biggest labor union.
The journalists’ walkout is part of the strike organized by GSEE, an umbrella group representing the entire private sector and many public sector workers. But it was held a day in advance to allow media coverage of the main strike — in which the main civil servants’ union is not participating.
Unions want the left-led government to ditch key elements of the austerity packages that were imposed in waves since 2010 to balance the country’s public finances, under pressure from international bailout creditors. Incomes fell an average 40 percent, while unemployment is now just under 20 percent.
Greece was forced to request the rescue loans when it lost access to bond markets after the revelation that it had been under-reporting key financial data for years and was running a much bigger-than-expected budget deficit.
The GSEE’s demands in Wednesday’s strike include pension increases, tax cuts and restoring the minimum salary to the pre-bailout level of 751 euros ($853), from the current 580 euros ($659).
Ironically, all these had been promised by the governing Syriza party before its first electoral victory in January 2015. However, its negotiating strategy quickly brought the country to the brink of bankruptcy and exit from the group of European countries that use the euro currency. As a result, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was obliged to impose new tax hikes and spending cuts to secure another bailout deal.
All train and island ferry services have been cancelled on Wednesday due to the strike, while most Athens public transport — including airport rail connections — will be out of action.
Two separate protest rallies will be held in the city center in the morning, with police bracing for possible violence.
While union members are generally orderly during such protests, far-left and anarchist demonstrators frequently hijack the demonstrations, taking advantage of the cover provided by the crowds to vandalize property and attack police with petrol bombs and stones.