Mass Strikes in Greece Follow Latest Austerity Blow
'Public television goes dark only in two circumstances: when a country is occupied by foreign forces or when there is a coup.'
Greek workers launched a 24 hour general strike today after the government's sudden Tuesday shutdown of the country's only public broadcasting station—Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT)—that left almost 3,000 workers jobless.
Thousands walked off the job today as Greece's biggest unions, representing 2.5 million workers, threw their weight behind the strike, shutting down Athens' massive public transportation system and stopping ferry services.
Over 13,000 protested outside of the closed station's headquarters today in support of the fired workers who occupy the building and continue to report online for the third day.
Al Jazeera reports on the shock and outrage expressed in the streets about the closure:
Addressing protesting ERT workers at a studio in Greece's second biggest city Thessaloniki, Alexis Tsipras, a leftwing politician, called on Greeks to defend democracy.
What we experienced yesterday was unprecedented, not only for Greece but for all of Europe," Tsipras said. "Public television goes dark only in two circumstances: when a country is occupied by foreign forces or when there is a coup."
Greece's Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is maneuvering to contain the ballooning political crisis that is proving to be the worst his administration has seen since he came to power a year ago. The conservative head of government is requesting meetings with left-wing politicians fighting the station's closure.
Yet, the massive mobilizations will not be easily quelled. Over three years of harsh austerity, reforms have gutted public services and jobs as Greece spirals into an unemployment and poverty crisis, with recent data showing Greek unemployment is at a record 27.4 percent. Greek unions, opposition parties, radicals, and many of the unemployed are expressing increasing anger at the erosion of social support for Greece's growing poor.
The Convervative government's decision to kill the ERT is its latest austerity imposition against a station that government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou called a "haven of waste".