General strike in Greece 20 February 2013

A general strike took place in Greece today 20 February 2013. It was called by the three main labour unions, GSEE (General Confederation of Workers), ADEDY (the umbrella union of civil servants) and PAME (the union affiliated with the Communist Party of Greece), and was followed by a large variety of professions from the public and private sector, including, among others, lawyers, tax collectors, engineers, doctors, builders, private sector employees, municipal workers, bank employees, teachers and dock workers. The strike was intended to protest austerity policies in general, and in particular measures pertaining to labour such as the abolition of collective labour agreements and the enforcement of civil mobilisation orders against striking workers.

Demonstrations were reported in Athens (~70,000 people) and Thessaloniki (~7,000 people), as well as Heraklion, Rethymno and Chania (Crete), Kalamata, Corinth, Argos and at the Rio-Antirrio bridge near Patras (Peloponnese), Volos, Larissa and Karditsa (Central Greece), Preveza and Ioannina (NW Greece), Alexandroupolis and Komotini (Thrace), Drama (northern Greece), Mytilene (Lesbos, N. Aegean), Zakynthos (Ionian islands). Minor clashes were reported in the Exarchia neighbourhood in downtown Athens after the end of the demonstration. It is particularly noteworthy that participation was high among farmers who joined the demos with their tractors and who blocked traffic on the Athens-Thessaloniki highway at the Nikaia interexchange, where they have been staging a symbolic sit-in for 2 weeks. Polls showed that farmers played a key role in bringing the current government to power in the June 2012 elections.

In Athens, the police let the PAME demonstration pass normally in Syntagma but then blocked access o other demonstrators, forcing them to circle the square in order to reach parliament and generating complaints, mainly from municipal workers’ union POE-OTA. In Thessaloniki, the workers of the self-managed plant VIOMET headed the demonstration.

4 people were detained in Heraklion, Crete, when protesters tried to enter the prefecture premises. Another group of protesters in Heraklion lifted a police car and flipped it over.

Before the protest had even started in Athens, 4 members of the Communist Liberation Youth (nΚΑ) were detained outside the offices of NAR (New Left Movement) in Exarchia. They were held for a few hours in the Attica police HQ for “identity verification” and released. Hellenic Police officials insisted that there was no order to proceed with arrests outside the political group’s offices.

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