Greece labour unions representing half the workforce vow to oppose austerity measures

Greece’s two biggest labour unions will jointly stage 24-hour strikes on Oct. 5 and Oct. 19 to protest new austerity measures which the government is expected to agree with its international lenders to meet its fiscal targets.

“We will fight to the end, to topple this policy,” Ilias Iliopoulos, general Secretary of public sector union ADEDY, told Reuters on Wednesday. “The troika (EU and IMF) and the government must go.”

ADEDY and GSEE represent about 2.5 million workers or half the country’s workforce. They have staged repeated strikes since the country obtained last year a EU/IMF 110-billion euro bailout to avoid bankruptcy.

The new Greece austerity measures –

Greece decided Wednesday to slash pensions, tax low-income earners and place thousands of public workers in a special labor reserve this year.

At stake is an EUR8 billion aid tranche that Greece must receive in the next few weeks or the government will run out of money by the middle of October.

Negotiators hope to clinch a deal by Oct. 3, in time for it to be approved at a scheduled meeting of the 17 euro-zone countries in Luxembourg.

Venizelos set the tone in parliament ahead of the cabinet session, telling lawmakers they must impose more reforms or risk a collapse in Greece’s economy.

“We have not fully understood the danger (we face), that the system could cease operating, that the national economy could cease operating,” he said.

the government said that with immediate effect it will begin culling some 30,000 workers from the public sector payroll.

Those workers will be placed in a reserve labor pool at 60% of their salary for a year, after which they would be dismissed if no other suitable jobs were found for them in the public sector.

The government also said it would reduce the taxable income threshold to EUR5,000 from EUR8,000 currently, a move that is expected to affect hundreds of thousands of the working poor and self-employed.

Additional measures will include cuts on high-income retirees.

Those retirees collecting more than EUR1,200 in their gross monthly pensions would see their pensions above that threshold cut by 20%–and up to 40%–for retirees under the age of 55 and collecting more than EUR1,000 a month.

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