Strikes hit Greece as crisis enters decisive week

Strikes halted ferries to the Greek islands and left rotting trash piling up in Athens for the 16th straight day, as unions fought back against more austerity cuts at the start of a crucial week for both Greece and the 17-nation eurozone.

Tax collectors and customs officers also walked off the job and protesting civil servants occupied the finance and labor ministry buildings in the Greek capital.



Greece faces a key vote on new austerity measures on Thursday, and other eurozone countries are rushing to find a comprehensive solution to Europe's escalating debt crisis in time for a Sunday summit in Brussels by European leaders. Both the Greek vote and the debt plan are needed so Europe can avoid a loss of confidence in global markets that some fear would plunge the world economy back into a recession.



Amid the barrage of union protests, parliament's finance committee approved the new austerity measures, which include pension cuts and across-the-board tax hikes, as well as pay and staff cuts in the civil service.



"The government is destroying its central administration and cutting away the safety net for our citizens, while dramatic cuts in pay are driving workers into poverty and deprivation," the civil servants' union ADEDY said. "The latest measures are the deathblow for our income."



Prime Minister George Papandreou said he was determined to see the latest reforms through.



"It will demonstrate that we, by ourselves, are seeking to make major changes," he said at an emergency meeting with President Karolos Papoulias. "It will mean we can go to the (debt) negotiations ... with our heads held high and with a stronger negotiating position."



He added: "This is the most critical week for Europe, and of course for Greece, with decisions that will determine the fate of the eurozone."



The government was considering using the army to help clear the trash in Athens, but was to decide on emergency plans later in the day, an official with knowledge of the contingency plans told The Associated Press. He asked not to be named because discussions were still ongoing.



Police said a private truck, commissioned by the government to replace striking garbage collectors, was attacked and set on fire Monday by dozens of unidentified men in an Athens suburb. The driver escaped unharmed.



A 48-hour general strike looms for Wednesday and on Thursday that will ground flights for two days, cripple public and many private services, even shut down essential services like gas stations and bakeries.



The Socialist government is facing mounting party dissent over a vote in parliament on Thursday to pass a new punishing round of tax hikes and pay cuts agreed upon in exchange for international bailout loans. With a majority of just four seats in parliament, the government is facing the prospect of an embarrassing defeat over a central part of the new legislation — its plans to strip Greek workers of decades-old labor rights.



Greece has admitted it will not meet its deficit-cutting targets this year and has promised tougher austerity in 2012 to compensate for the slippage.

The Greek Statistical Authority on Monday reported the country's budget deficit at €24.1 billion or 10.6 percent of gross domestic product in 2010 and the national debt at €329.4 billion or 144.9 percent of GDP. Both 2010 figures were worse than revised expectations.

The dissent and fierce protests by Socialist-led unions are piling pressure on the Papandreou government as Greece awaits formal approval this week of its next rescue payout of €8 billion from the International Monetary and eurozone countries, which are increasingly skeptical of Athens' ability to catch up with its deficit-cutting targets.



European officials intend to have ready by the end of the week a comprehensive plan to fight the debt crisis with new tools. That is expected to include new agreements on lightening Greece's debt load, boosting the health of Europe's banks to withstand the debt turmoil and enhancing the impact of the eurozone bailout fund's lending capacities.



On Sunday, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said private holders of Greek bonds would likely have to endure bigger voluntary losses than the 20 percent level set in a July agreement. That is considered crucial if Greece is to have a fighting chance of emerging from its massive debt hole.



He later said not to expect a definitive solution to the financial crisis at Sunday's summit of EU leaders.



German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said all sides involved in negotiations had agreed to keep the discussion of possible measures confidential, and refused to provide any details.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick