Greek unions to strike over pensions
ATHENS — Greek labor unions announced a new general strike to protest pension reforms next week, as government officials waited yesterday for the first installment of a $140 billion rescue package designed to stave off bankruptcy.
Greece’s two main public- and private-sector unions set a walkout for May 20 — a day after Greece must repay some $11.4 billion in expiring debt, using loans from its eurozone partners and the International Monetary Fund.
The Mediterranean country’s acute debt problems, resulting from years of overspending and falsified accounts, have battered global markets and weakened the euro. In response, the European Union and the IMF threw together a $952.35 billion package early Monday to prevent the debt crisis from spreading and protect the common euro currency. That package came in addition to the billions already pledged to Greece.
Yesterday, EU officials also advocated unprecedented scrutiny of countries’ spending plans even before they go to their respective parliaments for approval, as well as serious financial penalties for countries that break the rules.
Greek finance ministry officials said a first installment of the international rescue package — $6.98 billion from the IMF — was due later yesterday. Athens also expects $18.4 billion requested from the European Union to arrive just before the May 19 deadline.
Unions say those earning low wages will suffer disproportionately from an increase in retirement ages and pension cuts.