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General strike in Greece – Hundreds protest against high costs and low wages – News

What is it about? A general strike in protest against the high cost of living largely paralyzed Athens on Wednesday. Ships and ferries remained in the ports, trains in the depots. Bus and taxi drivers also joined the strike call by the trade union umbrella organization GSEE.

Hundreds of strikers marched in front of parliament in Athens to demonstrate for higher wages, which still lag behind wages in other EU countries. High inflation and protests are putting the conservative government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis under increasing pressure.

Protesters hold up burning torches.

Legend:

Greeks protested in Athens to draw attention to the high cost of living.

Keystone/YANNIS KOLESIDIS

What are the unions criticizing? Unions criticize that the wage increases are not enough to keep up with rising food and housing costs. “The high prices eat up any minimum wage increase,” said leading GSEE representative Nikos Kioutsoukis to the Reuters news agency. “We cannot pay for another crisis, we cannot continue like this, we want real wage increases.”

Why are people currently concerned about this topic? According to ARD correspondent Moritz Pompl, the issue has particularly affected people in Greece since the Ukraine war. Because this caused an increase in energy and food prices: “Things that people feel directly in their wallets.” This is not the first time that Greeks have drawn attention to the conditions on the streets.

No noticeable recovery from the debt crisis yet


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During the severe debt crisis in Greece from 2010 to 2018, wages were massively cut amid painful austerity measures in return for international aid packages. Since then, the Greek economy has recovered and grown almost twice as fast as that of the eurozone. The minimum wage was also raised this month by 6.4 percent to 830 euros, the fourth increase in five years. But the upswing is not reaching many people. The Greek average salary of 1,175 euros (1,140 francs) per month is still 20 percent below the level of 15 years ago, and the unemployment rate, still over ten percent, is the second highest in the European Union after Spain.

How is the Greek economy doing? “Things are looking up. The economy is developing very well here. And yet salaries and pensions are still very low. “That’s why we’re demanding that things now have to be adjusted slowly,” Pompl told SRF.

How is the government reacting? “Greece must, among other things, repay the debts from the financial crisis. That’s why the government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is cautious when it comes to commitments,” explains Pompl. This was most recently seen among the farmers who took to the streets in Greece about two months ago.

“So far, they have always made sure that they were able to help the population, for example with shopping vouchers for food or a subsidy for the high energy prices during the Ukraine war and most recently for farmers,” said Pompl. However, he is of the opinion that a general increase in the level is only slightly noticeable.

The minimum wage is to be increased by the end of 2027


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Mitsotakis has promised to increase the monthly minimum wage to 950 euros (922 francs) by the end of the legislative period in 2027. The average wage is expected to rise by more than 25 percent to 1,500 euros (1,455 francs) during this period.

How much pressure is Mitsotakis under? In the last parliamentary elections, the liberal-conservative Kyriakos Mitsotakis was clearly confirmed and achieved the absolute majority. In some ways, people here in the country lack a good alternative, Pompl estimates.

“There is the social democratic PASOK party, which only gets around 12 percent in the polls, and the left-wing Syriza, which was in government until 2019.” However, this has crashed and is currently also around 12 percent. “In this respect, there is no really serious competition for Mitsotakis. And I could imagine that the result will not be as good as in the last parliamentary elections here in Greece.”

A picture of Kyiakos Mitsotakis during a speech.

Legend:

Kyriakos Mitsotakis is the head of Greece’s liberal-conservative government.

Keystone/MARCIN OBARA

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