ATHENS – Demonstrators stormed the Athens Acropolis on Tuesday and civil servants launched a walkout ahead of a general strike against massive austerity spending cuts.
With the government demanding painful “sacrifices” after the country secured a 110 billion euro (145 billion dollar) debt bailout, Labour Minister Andreas Loverdos said: “We have only one aim, to save Greece, and we are not going to budge.”
But highlighting the growing anger, Communist protesters broke into the ancient Acropolis citadel overlooking the capital at dawn, draping a giant banner reading “Peoples of Europe Rise Up” and chanting slogans against the draconian spending cuts.
“We want to send a message to the farthest reaches of Greece and Europe,” Communist lawmaker Nikos Papaconstantinou, told Flash Radio.
“Similar measures that eliminate social security are taken across Europe. But popular anger will rattle imperialist organisations,” he said.
Protesters did not prevent visitors from getting into the monument, one of Europe’s most visited tourist attractions, the lawmaker added.
A general strike with street demonstrations has been called for Wednesday.
Hundreds of thousands of civil servants began a two-day strike as the government rushed through parliament a new wave of tax hikes and wage cuts to clinch the bailout loan from the European Union and International Monetary Fund.
A demonstration called by the civil servants union Adedy was to be held in Athens. Pensioners were also holding a separate demonstration.
The public sector walkout, held ahead of the full-blown general strike, was expected to paralyse ministries and municipal offices while hospitals were operating on emergency staff.
Civil aviation staff have also joined the two-day mobilisation, grounding domestic flights on Tuesday and all flights on Wednesday.
Late Monday, unemployed teachers interrupted the state broadcaster’s evening news show to demand jobs. They read a statement demanding job protection and calling on the IMF pull out of Greece on late night news.
The government aims to cut 30 billion euros from the budget over three years by scrapping annual bonuses for public sector workers and retirees, requiring longer pension contributions and raising sales tax among other measures.
Eager to keep the Greece debt crisis from spreading to other countries, the EU and IMF agreed the unprecedented rescue package at the weekend in exchange for a new wave austerity cuts and tax hikes.
Germany, which had been highly reluctant to extend taxpayer cash to Greece, warned the Greek government on Tuesday that it must adhere rigidly to its austerity plan or loans would be halted.
“Every three months, Greece’s government must give a comprehensive report to the European Commission and the IMF about how it is implementing its plan,” German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told the Rheinische Post daily.
“If there are any violations, payments will be stopped. Then Athens will once again be threatened with bankruptcy,” he added.
The government hopes to fast-track the austerity plans through parliament, tabling bills on Monday and Tuesday so that a vote can be held on by the end of the week.