48 hour strike in Greece coincides with austerity vote
Expect trouble on Wednesday and Thursday as Greek unions have called for a 48 hour general strike and half the work force is expected to participate.
The 48 hour general strike is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday to coincide with the vote in parliament, expected to take place in two stages on both days.
Memories are still fresh of the battles between riot police and stone-throwing protesters at anti-austerity demonstrations in June and sporadic signs of trouble were reported on Monday with a petrol bomb hurled at a garbage truck in a northern suburb of Athens.
Papandreou, trailing badly in opinion polls, has defied a wave of protests, pledging to push through a deeply unpopular package that includes tax rises, pay and pension cuts, job layoffs and changes to collective pay deals.
His four-seat majority is expected to hold up with the support of smaller opposition parties, but at least two members of the ruling PASOK party may oppose part of the bill.
With European Union leaders racing to prepare a new bailout deal in time for a summit on October 23 and growing speculation that Greece may be forced to default on its massive public debt, Papandreou said Greece had to show its resolve.
"We must show we want the great changes, to go into this negotiation on October 23 with our head high, with a strong negotiating hand, to make sure we obtain the best for Greece," he said.
Trapped in deep recession and choked by a debt equivalent to some 162 percent of gross domestic product, Greece has been shut out of bond markets and would run out of money within weeks without international support.
The strikers don't realize it but default would make the austerity measures look like a picnic. Of course, there is nothing rational about a people demanding that the rest of the world finance their way of life so we should hardly expect logic coming from the unions, who would be broken beyond fixing if Greece defaulted.
The measures won't be enough to cure the problem, only kick the can down the road a few months until the next crisis arises. Most analysts now expect Greece to default - either a forced default or a crash landing that would swamp a few other economies in its wake.
The sooner the euro zone acts on that reality, the better it will be for all.