Thousands of Greeks Say No to Austerity

18 Jun 2011

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The Greek Cabinet recently approved a tough five-year plan that called for 78 billion Euros in budget cuts. 

Opposition groups and unions called a general strike on 15 June 2011 to protest against these austerity measures introduced by the Greek government in response to demands made by the EU and international banks. 

Hundred of thousands of people heeded the call and occupied "Constitution Square" in Athens.

Paul Jay from The Real News Network (TRNN) talks with Michael Spourdalakis, a professor from Athens University and participant in the general strike. 

The consequences of earlier austerity measures have been disastrous says Spourdalakis. They go beyond further flexibility in the labour system. There is a rise in unemployment to around 35% and a related 20% decline in the standard of living.

In terms of new austerity measures, there will be further cuts to public sector wages by 20%. Last year public sector salaries were reduced by between 18-22%.

Public expenditure is also going to be cut. For example, the cutback budget for the University of Athens, not including salaries, was 40 million Euros in 2009. Today that budget stands at 22 million Euros. The rector of the university has stated that the university will not survive beyond 2011.

Editor's Note: In an earlier interview by TRNN, Jay talks with Leo Panitch, co-author of In and Out of Crisis: The Global Financial Meltdown and Left Alternatives, who provides further background to the crisis in Greece.

According to Panitch, some of what has been going on in the Arab uprising has also been a problem for Greece for years now.

"There is a tremendous over education relative to the amount of hiring going on. So, for instance, amongst teachers, when I was in Greece a few years ago, there were daily demonstrations outside the ministry of education by highly educated young people who are trained to be teachers and don't have jobs. You can imagine how much worse the situation is now," says Panitch.

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