User Registration
or Cancel

Greece simmers as Antonis Samaras government passes more austerity cuts

Greece's parliament has narrowly approved a new batch of austerity measures, including thousands of public-sector job cuts and transfers, demanded by the country's creditors to keep vital bailout loans flowing.

MPs backed the cutbacks in an article-by-article vote early on Thursday morning, with two of the governing coalition's 155 deputies failing to back crucial articles.

It was the first major test for conservative prime minister Antonis Samaras since a left-wing party abandoned his coalition government last month.

The legislation will put 12,500 public-sector staff, mostly teachers and municipal workers, in a programme that subjects them to involuntary transfers and possible dismissals. It will also pave the way for 15,000 layoffs by the end of next year.

City halls across the country have been closed this week, with uncollected rubbish piling up on the streets, and unions held a general strike on Tuesday against the proposed cuts.

"I fully understand the hardship the Greek people are going through during the great crisis," the finance minister, Yannis Stournaras, said during the debate. "But I am fully convinced that the path we have chosen is correct."

About 3,000 people protested outside parliament in central Athens ahead of the vote, chanting anti-austerity slogans in a third straight day of protests.
But the reaction in the midst of the summer holiday season was subdued compared with previous, often violent demonstrations that brought tens of thousands into the streets.

Germany's finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, arrives in Athens on Thursday for a visit planned amid security measures that Greece's left-wing main opposition party denounced as "fascist and undemocratic".

The measures include a ban on all demonstrations in the city centre, including the area outside parliament that has been the focus of past violent protests.

The 13-month-old coalition government claims it has already made progress in stabilising the shattered economy. On Wednesday, Samaras made a televised statement to announce a sales tax cut for restaurant and catering services from 23% to 13% – the first tax reduction since the crisis began in late 2009.

Samaras is due to hold talks with Schaeuble, who is expected to discuss German support for small and medium-sized Greek businesses. And on Sunday, he will meet US treasury secretary Jacob Lew, who will stop in Athens on his way back from a G20 meeting in Moscow.

Schaeuble, widely resented in Greece as the driving force behind the country's painful cutbacks, said his one-day trip was meant to display confidence in Greek efforts at recovery.

"I can well understand people in Greece it's just that we have to help Greece get on a better path," he told Germany's ARD television on Wednesday evening. "The only thing that will really help people in Greece is achieving better economic development, they are on the right track ... it will continue to pay off."

But public sector staff targeted in the cuts said there was no justification for their treatment.

Sitting on the hot asphalt under an umbrella during a protest on Wednesday, 47-year-old Maria Denida joined other women who travelled from the northern city of Thessaloniki to protest outside parliament, together with many of the country's mayors.

"I've been a school guard for 13 years and suddenly we find out we have no job. They say we'll be suspended. But that means we'll be fired," Denida said.

Municipal police officers from around Greece rallied in the capital with their motorcycles and patrol cars. The force, whose duties include monitoring street vendors and parking, is due to be disbanded and incorporated into national police after officers are suspended on reduced pay for up to eight months.

"We cannot understand why this is happening," union head Apostolos Kossivas said. "We asked the government if there was any financial gain – they said no. Did we provide a bad service? They said no."

"So we think they just wanted to make up the quota they needed for job cuts, and are proceeding without a plan," Kossivas said.

Business News

Employers embrace the warm glow of paying their staff enough to live on

Ffyona Dawber has given her four least well-paid staff a pay rise. She’s the managing director of Synergy Vision, a small medical communications company in north-west London. In return, Brent Council will now cut £500 off her rates bill. This is one of the ways in which local politicians are using every weapon at their disposal to try to tackle inequality, and as the jobs market picks up – and… Read More

Poll surge for Alexis Tsipras’ Syriza as Greeks learn to smile again

Alexis Tsipras’ left-led government may be the bane of Europe’s political establishment, but in Greece support is soaring as Athens’ new political class negotiates the country’s economic plight. One month and three days after the tough-talking firebrand assumed power, Greeks of all political persuasions appear to like what they see. A Metron Analysis poll published on Saturday showed popularity… Read More

Walmart minimum wage to keep staff rise piles pressure on rivals

After decades of shop floor and political campaigning, US retailers are finally finally beginning to increase their minimum wages. While the increase is benefiting millions of workers across the country, its driving force is market competition. Walmart’s decision last week to increase the wages of 500,000 staff to at least $9 (£5.80) an hour – $1.75 above the federal minimum – from April comes as… Read More

A-Z of the general election 2015

A is for Another coalition … on which nobody seems particularly keen. All the maths suggests that no party will get an overall majority in May, but the idea of a formal deal with a smaller party appointing ministers and signing up to a broad legislative agenda is out of favour. The Conservatives say they would prefer to govern as a minority, while the Scottish National party claims it would… Read More

Josh Frydenberg rejects calls for royal commission into rogue financial advisers

Assistant treasurer Josh Frydenberg still sees no need for a royal commission into financial advisers despite the scandal that has rocked National Australia Bank. Renewed calls for a royal commission came after the bank’s financial advice arm NAB Wealth confessed last month it had quietly paid out as much as $15m to 750 customers during the past five years because it “didn’t get it right the… Read More

UK prepares for pensions spending spree – but is that the best long-term plan?

Fifty-five-year-old Andy Williams from Fife plans to retire in 10 years – and his first move will be to withdraw all his money from his pension fund. He doesn’t want to spend what he estimates will be £40,000 on a fast car or exotic holiday; instead he wants to use the money to improve the care for his wife, who suffers from MS, and the lives of his four daughters. “My pension has been very… Read More

Why bite-size thinking is as bad for the economy as it may be for our brains

Delayed gratification: it’s an important life skill we try to teach our children when they want that tooth-rotting treat right now. With good reason: the famous “marshmallow experiment” at Stanford University showed kids that chose to wait a few minutes and get two sweets, instead of gobbling up one immediately, were brighter and more successful more than a decade later. Yet in grown-up, economic… Read More

Naked ambition at Standard Chartered

Incoming Standard Chartered boss Bill Winters has a surname suggesting he possesses a thoroughbred showbusiness heritage, following in the footsteps of his peerless namesakes, Shelley, Mike and Bernie. The renowned banker is well-known in the City for his entertainment efforts, thanks to his 2013 appearance in a fundraising video for the Young Vic. In it, he starred alongside other financiers,… Read More

Mobile communications industry gathers in Barcelona for MWC 2015

The world’s largest mobile technology event kicks off on Sunday with more than 86,000 salespeople, software engineers, chip designers, device makers and television crews arriving in Barcelona for the five-day event. With Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg headlining, alongside Google rising star Sundar Pichai and the omnipresent, who has moved from recording music into designing electronic… Read More

Cheap and ultraslim circuits could make the internet of things a reality

At the end of a long traipse through the supermarket aisles, the phrase ‘unexpected item in the bagging area’ at the self-service check-out has raised the ire of many shoppers. In Scott White’s vision for the supermarket of the near future, there would be no irritating interruption, no barcodes to scan and no check-outs. Instead shoppers would simply load their trolleys and walk out of a… Read More

Business Broker Spain

Web Design Spain