Greek municipal workers went on strike Monday to protest government plans to reduce the number of civil servants, a measure demanded by Greece's international creditors before they approve their next bailout installment for the country.
The country's civil servants union, ADEDY, also called a four-hour work stoppage from noon for all civil servants in the capital, Athens. The municipal workers' strike was expected to see all local services, including trash collection, suspended, with the exception of welfare and social services.
The latest stoppages come ahead of a Brussels meeting later of the finance ministers of the 17 European Union countries that use the euro where Greece's bailout will be a major topic of discussion.
Poul Thomsen, the International Monetary Fund representative, and Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said Sunday they were «hoping» for a final agreement between Greece and its bailout monitors — the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Commission — before the meeting.
After years of fiscal mismanagement and following the global financial crisis, Greece's financial situation worsened dramatically and the country has been dependent since May 2010 on billions of euros in rescue loans from the IMF and its euro partners. In return for the cash, the government has pledged to overhaul its economy and get its public finances into better shape.
But the reforms, which have included big cuts in salaries and pensions as well as repeated tax hikes, have left the economy mired in the sixth year of a deep recession, with unemployment spiraling to above 27 percent.
A public backlash has resulted in frequent violent protests and led to repeated political crises that have led to four different Greek governments in less than four years.
Critics say Greece's rescue plan was mismanaged, with the austerity hampering any chance of growth. The depth and scale of the recession is way more than expected and that's worsened the country's debt dynamics.
In an effort to reduce the country's bloated public sector in the latest reforms, the government is seeking to put 12,500 civil servants on administrative leave by the end of 2013, with the possibility of dismissal.
They will be paid 75 percent of their normal salary and if they aren't transferred to other state agencies within eight months of being put on leave, they will be subject to dismissal.
Those targeted include 2,200 school security personnel, 3,500 members of the Athens municipal police, which will be disbanded and most of its members absorbed into Greece's police force, at least 2,000 local government employees, 1,500 teachers and several employees of various ministries.