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Athens paralyzed by striking public sector workers taking to streets to protest against new labor bill (VIDEO)

Athens paralyzed by striking public sector workers taking to streets to protest against new labor bill (VIDEO)
The Greek capital has been brought to a standstill as public sector workers protest against new legislation that they claim would restrict employee rights at a time when the economy is struggling to rebuild from the pandemic.

Police estimated that as many as 6,500 workers gathered outside the country’s parliament building in Athens on Thursday after Greece’s main civil servants union ADEDY called a 24-hour-strike.

The union organized the strike, which aims to highlight their grievances with the new legislation, to coincide with the country’s May Day celebrations. ADEDY says the planned bill will abolish the five-day working week, add two hours to the standard working day and get rid of collective agreements.

“(The bill) constitutes ... a direct attack on employees and their rights ... at a time when the country is in a deep health and economic crisis largely due to the choices of the government,” ADEDY said in a statement.

Protesters waved flags and banners reading “we won’t become slaves of the 21st century” as the city came to a standstill. The underground, trains and public buses aren’t operating, forcing many individuals to drive or take taxis to their place of work. Ferries to Greece’s many islands remained docked. Even journalists at state TV ERT walked out in protest. 

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The government has refuted the claims of the striking workers, noting that the new legislation would bring greater flexibility and reflect changes in working habits. “The only thing this bill does is it tries to give workers and employers a degree of freedom on how to arrange the eight-hour workday,” Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis told Parapolitika radio.

The country’s economy contracted by 8.2% in 2020 due to the pandemic and is expected to grow by 4.2% this year despite enduring Covid restrictions.

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