Greek Fire Fighters Tackle 38 Blazes During Wage Cut Protests

Greek fire fighters dealt with 30 blazes in rubbish dumpsters yesterday that were set alight in central Athens during protests against wage cuts, introduced as part of conditions for Greece’s international loan package.

Some 60 fire fighters and 15 fire engines were needed to extinguish the blazes as well as to put out six burning cars and two motorbikes that had been torched, the the Greek Fire Service said today in an e-mailed statement.

Bus, train and subway workers are holding a 24-hour strike today, the third in a week, since plans to cut wages were approved by the government on Dec. 9. State-controlled NET TV today reported that public transport workers will also stage a four-hour work stoppage tomorrow.

About 20,000 people responded to a call from the country’s two biggest union groups to protest in Athens yesterday during a 24-hour general strike, and 10 protesters were arrested after riot police were attacked with molotov cocktails, stones, wood and marble, according to a statement on the Greek police website.

Some protesters threw fire-bombs at officers deployed outside parliament and at the Finance Ministry in the center of the capital. Police responded with tear gas and flash grenades.

Former transport minister and member of parliament for the center-right main opposition New Democracy party, Kostis Hatzidakis, was attacked by protesters and led to safety after receiving blows to the head and cuts to the face, television footage showed.

“I feel no hatred for those who attacked me yesterday,” Hatzidakis said in an e-mailed statement today. “However, we need to understand that Greece can’t move forward with hatred and violence. On the contrary, we must give our best to overcome this major crisis.”

Greece’s ruling socialist Pasok party “condemns in the strongest manner the brutal attack” as “such antisocial behaviour seriously affects the struggle of workers and the state,” Pasok national committee secretary Michalis Karchimakis said in an e-mailed statement.

The International Monetary Fund and the European Union approved a 110 billion-euro ($148 billion) package of emergency loans for Greece in May.

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