Agencies 3:13PM BST 08 Jul 2013
Thousands of Greek municipal workers and state school teachers took to the streets of Athens on Monday to protest against the public sector layoffs that the government has promised its international lenders in exchange for bailout funds.
Municipal policemen during a rally by local government workers, against the public sector reforms and layoffs Greece has promised its international lenders, in Athens on July 8. Photo: Reuters
Eurozone finance ministers were due to decide on Monday how to keep Greece afloat and had threatened to delay the latest €8.1bn (£6.97bn) payment to Athens to put more pressure on it to enact unpopular reforms.
Earlier, Greece's debt inspectors reached an agreement with the cash-strapped country on reforms needed for the release of the next batch of its vital bailout loans, although they warned of an "uncertain" economic outlook.
While the country's international creditors noted that progress has been made in some sectors, they said more needs to be done - particularly in trimming the size of bloated civil service - if certain economic targets are to be met.
They added that the Greek authorities have "committed to take corrective action" to get the austerity process back on track.
The latest review of Greece's economy by the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, known as the troika, will be presented later Monday at a meeting in Brussels of the finance ministers of the 17 euro countries, who will decide whether Greece gets the next payment of its bailout loan.
Ahead of the meeting, more than 6,000 local administration workers, among them guards and uniformed municipal police on motorbikes, marched to the Administrative Reform Ministry in central Athens, waving black flags, honking horns and sounding sirens.
Police detain students who tried to disturb a meeting of the board of management at the University of Athens. Photo: Getty
"Take your memorandum and get out of here!" the workers chanted, in the first protest since the lenders completed their latest review of Greece's cost cutting efforts on Sunday, a sign of the resistance the government may face.
"They won't succeed - we will fight it," said POE-OTA, the federation of local government unions, which held a 24-hour nationwide strike. The largest public sector union ADEDY also staged a work stoppage in Athens.
Greece has struggled to convince the "troika" of lenders from the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund that it can deliver on its pledges and shrink its spendthrift public sector, widely blamed by many Greeks for the debt crisis.
Public sector layoffs are a taboo in Greece, where a sixth year of recession has made one in four jobless and eroded living standards.
After missing a June deadline, Athens agreed to put 12,500 state workers into a "mobility scheme" by September, meaning they will be transferred or fired within a year. Around 3,500 of those will be municipal workers and another 2,000 will be teachers, government officials have said.
A second wave of 12,500 staff will be placed in the scheme by the end of the year. The government has also promised to fire 4,000 state workers this year.
Public broadcasts are to resume in Greece later this week, a minister said on Monday, nearly a month after the government caused an uproar by pulling the plug on state television ERT to save money.
Manolis Kapsis, the deputy minister in charge of public television, told Athens public radio: "Yes, it will be a broadcast of necessity."
The government intends to run a temporary programme until it can hire staff for a new broadcaster by autumn.
The government turned off ERT on June 11, claiming the historic broadcaster was hopelessly inefficient and ate up €300ma year. The shutdown caused over 2,600 layoffs.
Greece's top administrative court later ruled that ERT's shutdown was within the state's rights, but it told the government it still needed to have public broadcasts in some form as soon as possible.
Top-selling Ta Nea daily on Monday said the temporary broadcasts will resume by Wednesday and will mainly feature movies, serials and documentaries.
ERT's demise caused a major political crisis and nearly brought down the government, which was accused by international media groups of authoritarianism.
ERT staff refused to accept their dismissal. They took over the station's headquarters north of Athens and have maintained a rogue broadcast since June 11, with assistance from the European Broadcasting Union.
Mr Kapsis added that steps to set up the new state broadcaster, which will have fewer staff, "will be decided during the summer".
"There is a general timetable of three to four months," the minister said.
Under the terms of its EU-IMF bailout, Greece has to axe 4,000 state jobs this year.