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Greek Unions Protest "Barbaric" Austerity Cuts, Vow "There Will Be Social Uprising"

Bailout deal "contains some of the most savage cuts in modern Greek history"

- Common Dreams staff

After days of delays and lengthy talks, Greek leaders have come to an agreement on the cuts demanded in order to receive bailout funds from the EU, European Central Bank and IMF. Greek civil society is up in arms over the harsh austerity imposed, with a 48-hour strike planned against the "barbaric" cuts, while the deal has already prompted a resignation from Greece's deputy labor minister.

Greek Public Power Corporation unionists protest outside the parliament in Athens on February 9, 2012. Greece's main unions on February 9 called a 48-hour strike, the second this week, over new austerity cuts agreed by the country's coalition government in return for bailout loans. (AFP Photo/Angelos Tzortzinis) Agence France-Presse reports that Greek unions, furious over further austerity, have called for strikes:

The main private and public-sector unions called a 48-hour general strike on Friday and Saturday to fight "barbaric" new wage and pension cuts.

"We categorically reject this framework to impoverish and bankrupt society and the economy," the leading union GSEE said, as official data showed the jobless rate exceeding a million people, or 20.9 percent of the workforce.

A representative of the ADEDY union also foresaw "misery" with upcoming cuts:

“The painful measures that create misery for the youth, the unemployed and pensioners do not leave us much room,” secretary general of the ADEDY union, Ilias Iliopoulos, told Reuters.

“We won’t accept them. There will be a social uprising.”

The fury against the proposed austerity demanding bailout package has also prompted backlash from with the government. The Associated Press reports that deputy labor minister Yiannis Koutsoukos has resigned in protest of the austerity reforms the bailout deal requires.

Helena Smith writes in the Guardian that the cuts the Greek coalition leaders agreed to were "savage":

A cursory read shows that it contains some of the most savage cuts in modern Greek history with the minimum wage being reduced by 22%. From €750 a month it will be brought down to €585 – a drop that in turn has been quick to enrage trade unionists and is bound to elicit widespread, and possibly violent, protests in the weeks and months ahead.

Supplementary pensions were to have been dropped by 15 % – on top of the barrage of tax increases, wage and pension cuts over the past two years. The government has also agreed to lay off 15,000 public sector employees by March.

The economic crisis in Greece has seen the number of homeless people soar. The BBC reports:

Homelessness has soared by an estimated 25% since 2009 as Greece spirals further into its worst post-war economic crisis.

The country is now in its fifth straight year of recession and the official unemployment rate is nudging 20%, exacerbated by the austerity measures being pushed through in return for more bail-out money.

Greeks now speak of another section of society: the "new homeless".

Hard-hit Greeks have also been turning to charity to receive healthcare, McClatchy reports:

The Greek branch of Doctors of the World, a French-founded relief group renowned for aiding war victims and impoverished immigrants, now has a clinic in Perama, where 80 or more people line up three days a week. To cope with demand, the group plans to operate the clinic seven days a week. [...]

According to Dr. Nikitas Kanakis, the dentist who's president of the Greek branch of Doctors of the World, the number of patients coming through the door of the group's Perama clinic has quadrupled in the past two years. Eight in 10 patients now are Greeks, four times what it had been.

"It's a shocking time," he told McClatchy. "The state doesn't know who's poor or who's vulnerable. People used to be able to get money and find a doctor. Now everything is breaking down."

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