Greek MPs approved the country's latest austerity package yesterday aimed at securing – the ruling coalition insists – its financial survival and membership within the European family. Meanwhile, ordinary people's anger reached boiling point in widespread demonstrations and an 80,000-strong protest outside parliament.
The harsh measures passed with a razor thin majority, as only 153 MPs out of the 300-seat parliament voted in favour. Shortly after the vote was concluded, two of the ruling parties expelled seven MPs for voting against the bill.
The cutbacks – worth €13.5bn over the next two years – are essential if Greece is to continue receiving bailout funds from international creditors. The bill includes cuts to wages and pensions as well as labour reforms, in exchange for a €31bn aid lot that is already five months overdue.
Public service wages that have already suffered reductions of nearly 40 per cent will be further axed while labour reforms will make it easier for employers to fire staff. To oppose the cuts, judges and doctors participated in a 48-hour general strike while dozens of uniformed policemen also protested outside parliament yesterday.
"It's a massacre, how will we live?" asked Christos Fotopoulos, president of the Police Union. Father-of-three Mr Fotopoulos will see his monthly salary of €1,550 drop to €1,220 and warns that the wage cuts will only foment corruption. Experts say the real test for the government will start when the measures are implemented.
As part of the general strike, which was due to end yesterday, air travel was disrupted, ferries were docked and hospitals were only treating emergency cases.