Dec. 30 - Shop employees say ''Never on Sunday'' and march in Athens' main shopping street, defying rain and scuffling with police. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: Shop employees left merchandise unpacked and unfolded on Sunday as they traded store tickets for banners and marched angrily down Athens's busiest shopping street over having to work on Sundays, scuffling with police in the process. The strike comes as a reaction to the decision by Greece's conservative-led coalition government to allow shops to open on some Sundays a year to help boost sales. Hundreds of protesters defied the pouring rain and marched through Athens' central shopping district chanting "Never on Sunday" - in reference to a popular film whose protagonist never worked on Sundays - and called out to their colleagues who were working to leave their posts and join the protest. Scuffles broke out when protesters resisted police efforts to remove them from a central avenue to open it to traffic and police pushed and kicked the protesters back towards the curb. The protesters continued to march under heavy police presence. The National Confederation of Greek Commerce had issued a statement on Friday stating that while they comprehend the reasons their employees have gone on strike, shops would remain open on Sunday during the crucial holiday season. For shop owners the Christmas holiday was their last chance to make some profit. But with the recent round of wage, job and pension cuts, the third in two years, and unemployment hovering at a record 26 percent, even Christmas sales are hard to come by. Small and medium sized businesses have been hard hit by the economic crisis in Greece, and it is estimated tens of thousands have shut down since the crisis began in 2010. Austerity measures taken as part of the country's EU/IMF bailout have wiped out a fifth of economic output, hammering living standards.