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Monday 15 September 2014

Greece approves scheme to fire 25,000 public workers

Published 18/07/2013 | 19:13

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Protesters shout slogans as they march during a rally against the visit of the German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble in Athens. REUTERS/John Kolesidis
Protesters shout slogans as they march during a rally against the visit of the German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble in Athens. REUTERS/John Kolesidis

GREECE has unlocked access to nearly €7bn in European aid by sacking 25,000 public sector workers, in a move which has sparked a new surge of anti-austerity protests outside parliament.

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The measures are part of a bill which was voted through successfully, and included a new luxury tax on houses with swimming pools and owners of high performance cars.

The European Union and International Monetary Fund lenders said they would only be willing to bail out the struggling company if it complied with a set of demands, including the controversial job cuts and tax rises.

Thousands of teachers and policemen have now been told they have eight months to find a new job before they get laid off, meaning being thrown into a job market where there is 27pc unemployment.

It is nonetheless being seen as a success story for the brittle coalition government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, which has just a five-seat majority in Greece’s parliament of 300 and lost many allies over the decision to shut down the state broadcaster last month.

Ahead of the vote Mr Samaras addressed the public in a gaffe-laden broadcast. Swearing and fluffing his lines, he announced a cut to VAT, down from 23 to 13 per cent. It is a move that seemed calculated to sugar the pill of further austerity, as well as being an attempt to curb tax evasion.

And while it seems to have worked in getting the new bill through, angry public workers took to the streets of Athens in protest, blowing whistles, honking horns and blaring sirens.

While Mr Samaras said that “better days will come for our people”, a tearful 52-year-old school guard said outside parliament: “After 12 years on the job, they fire us in one night. If they have any guts, they should say no to the bailout and take some of the bill's articles back.”

Greece has been surviving on two bail-outs worth over €240bn since 2010, secured at the cost of wage cuts and tax rises which are believed to have triggered a six-year recession.

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