Greek Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos urged deputies on Thursday to approve a new austerity and reform bill put forward to secure further international aid and escape default.
"Labour market reform for instance is a perquisite to the release of the vital sixth EU/International Monetary Fund aid," stressed Venizelos, addressing the parliament in Athens, in an effort to win the backing of ruling socialist PASOK party dissidents.
Some deputies who have expressed strong objections to articles of the omnibus bill containing all the latest salary cuts, tax increases and public sector reforms that is due to be put for vote next week ahead of the EU summit scheduled for later this month that will determine the further funding of debt-laden Greece with international bailout loans.
Without the next 8 billion euro (10.96 billion U.S dollars) tranche, the euro zone member country could go bankrupt in November.
But ideas such as the abolishment of collective wage bargaining rights for private sector employees to boost competitiveness have increased discontent amongst PASOK parliamentarians. Arguing that such steps boost recession instead, they warn they could vote against. PASOK currently holds a 154 seat majority in the 300-member strong assembly.
Due to higher than expected recession over the past year, Greece has missed goals in the stability and development program agreed with foreign creditors in May 2010 in exchange of the vital aid.
The new set of measures, including pay cuts of up to 35 percent in the wider public sector, and a labor reserve program that forces some 30,000 civil servants to early retirement by year end with monthly incomes reduced by 60 percent, has caused more than objections to labor unions.
Public transport in Athens paralyzed and archaeological sites, including the Acropolis hill, were closed once again on Thursday, as employees are on a new 48- hour strike over austerity.
Taxi drivers who oppose the liberalization of their sector stormed the Transport ministry demanding new talks with officials, ahead of a fresh 24-hour strike called for Friday.
Health care employees and lawyers marched to the parliament in the centre of Athens and the nearby Finance Ministry, which was occupied by striking civil servants, as well as the Public Power company's premises.
Labor unions aim to block the issuance of electricity bills that include a new property tax ranging from 0.5 to 20 euros (0.68 to 27.41 U.S dollars) per square meter annually. They claim that about 500,000 low income households are threatened with cuts on power supply, as they cannot bear the extra cost.
Moreover, the country faces for a second time this week the threat of fuel shortages in coming days, as customs officials started on Thursday a ten- day strike. Refinery employees who had launched a similar protest on Tuesday, sending drivers to form queues in gas stations, suspended their mobilization as they were excluded from a new wave of cutbacks on wages.
As over 10,000 tons of rubbish uncollected since October 3 due to a garbage collectors mobilization, remain on the streets across the country, the two main umbrella unions of private and public sector employees decided on Thursday to turn a 24-hour general strike initially called for October 19 to a 48-hour nationwide strike that lasts to October 20.