Tuesday was a day of protests outside parliament and the finance ministry as nurses, pensioners and municipality workers all gathered to voice their discontent at government imposed cuts.
Municipality workers from trade unions PEO and DEOK went on strike for four hours to protest against a further 12 per cent cut to state funding for 2014.
The strike took place between 8am and noon and it was decided that protestors would gather outside parliament between 9am and 11am, the time the House Finance Committee was discussion the interior ministry’s budget.
The work stoppage was not expected to cause any problems to the smooth running of the municipalities according to the deputy head of their union, Savvas Vergas.
“We fully understand the circumstances our country is in and last year we managed to work on a smaller budget hoping this would please the government and that we would be able to continue on the same budget,” he said.
However, this administration was imposing further cuts and according to Vergas, some municipalities will not be able to pay salaries.
“If the larger municipalities are having problems paying their staff then you can imagine the smaller municipalities are struggling even more to meet their obligations,” he said.
Protestors held banners with slogans such as ‘The state should protect municipalities’, ‘No to wage cuts and benefit cuts’ and ‘No to the reduction of funds to municipalities’.
“If this decision is implemented it will mean that municipalities will be close to dissolution and they will stop providing services to the public,” said Antonis Neophytou, a representative of left-wing union PEO.
Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos said that the current government has only cut funding by 11 per cent as opposed to the previous administration which had cut it by 30 per cent.
He told reporters following the committee meeting that it is up to each municipality to see how they will reduce their costs and keep the same level of service.
Hasikos said that municipalities are organisations with a lot of ‘fat’ and they needed to see how to cut it and still do the same job.
Employers’ union OEV criticised the municipality protest, saying it was politically motivated and that it was sending out a negative message to foreign investors that there is unrest on the island.
Off-duty state nurses also took part in a protest outside parliament which began at 9am and finished at 1pm. The protest was organised by a group of nurses through Facebook without the knowledge of the government workers umbrella union, PASYDY.
Health Minister Petros Petrides was present at the House Finance Committee at 11am on Tuesday to discuss the Health Ministry’s budget for 2014.
Nurses say they will be hit hard by 50 per cent cuts on extra pay for working night shifts, weekends, and national holidays.
“What the finance ministry is suggesting is not a cut in allowance. It is a slaughter and financial destruction for some colleagues,” the head of their union, Prodromos Argyrides said.
He said cuts in the allowance for working night shifts, weekends and national holidays was cut by 15 per cent in January.
“We accepted these cuts but it seems we are expected to accept new cuts,” Argyrides said.
He gave the example of night shift work for government nurses. Originally they received an extra 28 per cent on their wages, so if they received, for example €100 a day, they would receive €128 for working a night shift. This dropped to 24 per cent and now the ministry wants to decrease this to 20 per cent, Argyrides said.
Pensioners also gathered outside the finance ministry on Tuesday morning to protest against cuts to their pensions.
“Pensioners do not accept the cuts in their pensions, the abolition of their Easter bonus, free medical care, free public transport, the taxation of their home, the increase in road tax and other measures; measures which have harmed pensioner’s living standards,” said a statement from
EKYSY, a pensioner organisation affiliated with PEO.
The union said that protests outside the house will last for eight days or until their demands are met.