Greek police clash with firefighters

Greek riot police have used tear gas and flash grenades to scatter hundreds of protesting firefighters outside parliament as the country struggles with an economic crisis.

The clashes are said to be the latest protest staged by workers in the public sector who are on short-term contracts and now face redundancy as part of the government plan to cut spending and improve public finances.

The country was on the brink of bankruptcy in May, and was saved after its European partners and the International Monetary Fund agreed to provide a total 130 billion euro ($185 billion) in rescue loans over three years, the Associated Press reported.

The socialist government of Greece has applied painful austerity measures. Among these measures were a freeze on most public hirings and non-renewal of contract workers’ employment.

Similar clashes were reported last month when riot police tried to disperse Culture Ministry contract workers who had blocked the entrance to the Acropolis.

For more than a week, firefighters on short-term contracts have been staying in tents on Athens’ main Syntagma Square, opposite parliament. Unionists believe that the unemployment of firefighters comes at a time when the fire brigade is facing staffing problems.

Government officials say they will do their best to renew the firefighters’ contracts next year.

Economic policies have caused a wave of general strikes and demonstrations this year in Greece. The country has the second biggest budget deficit in the euro region.

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