Nearly 2,000 retired labor leaders and Social Security department workers have gathered in the Athens, Greece to protest “inhumane” cuts to pensions.
An army of 1,500 senior citizens marched behind banners, chanting “shame on you” and calling for the government to cancel the memorandum that has led to dozens of cuts since 2010 and is cued for further gouging in 2019.
“I‘m supporting two families on my pension,” said protester Octogenarian Athanasios Christou, leaning on a walking stick.
This is a common scenario for Greek families following the crash of the economy in 2010, which caused the unemployment rate to rise to over 21 percent, especially for people over the age of 25.
“I don’t know what I will do if it’s reduced further,” he said. “I have cut back on everything, coffee at my local store, newspapers. I go to the doctor only for something serious and even then it’s on borrowed money,” the 87-year-old said.
The protests were aimed at the Leftist Syriza party, which swept to power in 2015 promising to do away with austerity, later accepting further cuts in return for a multi-billion euro financial bailout from bankruptcy.
“I have had enough of their lies,” said Thanassis Lechos, a 69-year-old who worked for 47 years in construction and mines. He said his pension has fallen 30 percent in recent years.
“I have children and grandchildren, who are waiting for their granddad to support them,” he said.
The third bailout adjustment program is expected next August, as creditors defend the “austerity” cuts while families continue to suffer.
EU statistics agency Eurostat says 22.2 percent of Greece’s population is "severely materially deprived."
That is defined as an inability to pay a mortgage or rent, falling behind on utility bills and unable to afford heating, pay unexpected expenses and buy a washing machine.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Greece, journalists are walking away from their desks in a 24-hour protest against the underfunding of their social security funds. Newspapers have stopped the presses and now have reporters from radio and television news stations have joined the strike, but news websites have announced that they would not be updating their content during the protest.
The country’s primary journalist union, ESIEA, launched a movement to demand that the government honors social security requirements by meeting health care needs.
The strike will last until 6 a.m. local time on Wednesday.