(Reuters) – Greece’s largest public sector union staged a 24-hour walkout on Wednesday, demanding wage and pension increases from a government still bound to keeping expenditure in check by its lenders.
The strike by the ADEDY union is the first major strike since Greece exited its bailout program in August.
Greece still has limits on what it can spend as it needs to achieve a primary budget surplus — which excludes debt servicing costs — of 3.5 percent of its annual output in the medium-term under a post-bailout supervision program.
The ADEDY union, which represents about half a million public sector workers, wants the left-led Syriza government to retract pay and pension cuts and tax increases that were part of three bailout programs since 2010.
“Now is the time the government should be forced to change track, (by) abandoning its extreme policies of austerity and satisfy our demands,” ADEDY said in a statement.
Public sector workers have seen earnings shrink by up to 40 percent cumulatively since Greece first sought a financial lifeline from the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2010.
Since early 2010 to mid-2018, Greece relied on more than 260 billion euros (300 billion dollars) lent by its euro zone partners and the IMF.
Workers plan to hold a protest march in central Athens on Wednesday morning.
The Greek economy shrank by about a quarter during the eight-year crisis. It has now returned to growth and the jobless rate has dropped to 18 percent from a record high of nearly 28 percent in 2013, but is still the highest in the euro zone.
The government, which signed up to a new bailout in 2015 despite pre-election promises to end austerity, has pledged to protect workers and pensioners from any further cuts, but without derailing the country’s fiscal performance.