Greece: SYRIZA leader says 'Stop huge pay to the cutters'

September 8, 2012

Greek opposition leader Alexis Tsipras, from the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), launched an explosive attack on the government on September 7. Tsipras accused it of paying bailout officials fat-cat wages while working people face endless cuts and rock-bottom wages.

The Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF) bailout fund manages the recapitalisation of Greece's banks as part of the country's €130 billion ($160 billion) bailout. HFSF managers are earning up to €22,000 a month compared with a minimum wage below €600, Tsipras said.

Other civil servants' pay has been cut by about a third since the first bailout in 2010 and stands to be slashed further under the coming second bailout.

The finance ministry agreed to consider a review of managers' pay.

It was also forced to acknowledge that previous governments had paid about $18.5 million on fees for privatisation advisers since June 2010, even though there were negligible asset sales over that period. “Where did this money go?” Tsipras asked.

Mass protests continued throughout Greece. As unions geared up for new rounds of anti-austerity protests, thousands of police marched through Athens on September 6, chanting "thieves, thieves" and carrying black flags.

A top labour leader warned that new spending cuts would unleash unprecedented unrest. General Confederation of Greek Workers leader Yiannis Panagopoulos said: “To insist on the current austerity programme and adopt new measures against the less well-off will provoke a social explosion that is violent and of an intensity never seen before by Greek society.”

Greece's largest trade union warned on September 3 that almost a third of the country will be unemployed in 2013 if the government carries out the €11.5 billion ($14 billion) planned austerity measures.

“In 2012, we are expecting a drop in gross domestic product of 7%,” said General Confederation of Greek Workers head of research Savvas Rombolis. “This will create unemployment of 24% — 1.2 million people.

“Our estimate is that in 2013, unemployment will be between 28 and 29% — more than 1.4 million people.”

Unemployment reached 23.1% in May and the under-25 jobless rate hit 54.9%.

Rombolis said Greeks on the minimum wage have already had their spending power cut to 1979 levels. Those earning an average salary have been pushed back to the equivalent of the early 1980s.

The Greek government is likely to slash pensions and other benefits further in the new austerity package — which the government says is vital to keep on receiving loan payments and remain a member of the eurozone.

[Abridged from Morning Star.]

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