Nov. 06 - Tens of thousands of Greek workers begin a 48-hour strike to protest a new round of austerity cuts that unions say will devastate the poor and drive a failing economy to collapse. But will another massive strike make any difference to Greece's ultimate fate? Hayley Platt reports.
It's the third major strike in Greece two months. Workers from numerous sectors including transport, banking and education have downed tools over a new round of cuts. Two million people are taking part in two days of action. Athens must pass tough new reforms over the next few days in order to qualify for the next instalment of bailout aid. They include raising the retirement age by two years to 67. Slashing public sector pensions by up to a quarter. Ending automatic salary increases on promotion And scrapping holiday bonuses - which currently add two months pay to an annual salary. Many workers in other parts of Europe have little sympathy - they see the benefits as excessive. But the state of the Greek economy and the affect it is having on individuals is cause for concern. And many investors fear the changes come too late. Stefan Scharffetter is a German trader. (SOUNDBITE) (German) TRADER FOR BAADER BANK, STEFAN SCHARFFETTER, SAYING: "Greece has been in recession for several years and there's no upturn in sight. You have to find a balanced package, that seems to be the challenge, a balance between saving while retaining enough incentives for the economy to grow, and enable Greeks to generate revenues. At the moment it looks like Greece is saving itself to death." This round of cuts is the latest in a string of austerity packages. But so far they've done little to restore the country's finances. Next year's public debt is expected to hit 189 percent of GDP. And with one in four people out of work many believe austerity isn't the answer. (SOUNDBITE) (Greek) 80-YEAR-OLD PENSIONER THEODOROS PETRIDIS SAYING: "As a pensioner I believe this is going to be the final blow. There is no future in Greece for the working class, pensioners, or low income earners." The reforms are expected to be passed - just. And Christian Schulz from Berenberg Bank says they do off long-term hope. SOUNDBITE: Christian Schulz, Berenberg Bank, saying (English): "I think once we are through the current rough patch with these very last minute negotiations and there's still the risk of Greece leaving the euro hanging as a cloud over the European development. Once we're through this I think Greece will have a better future ahead of it." But these workers aren't so sure and a Greek exit from the euro still can't be ruled out.