ATHENS, June 4 (Xinhua) -- Thousands members of labor unions marched peacefully in the center of Athens on Saturday protesting a new package of austerity measures and a privatization program promoted by the government and EU-International Monetary Fund (IMF) lenders to address the debt crisis which threatened Greece with default.
A day after EU-IMF auditors agreed with Greek officials on the tough terms for the release of the next tranche of foreign aid to the debt-ridden country next month, the two umbrella labor unions of public and private sector employees ADEDY and GSEE staged a rally in front of the parliament building to denounce the new measures.
Chanting slogans such as "We can't take any more" and " Greece is not for sale" and raising banners which read "We will not go until they go", they joined a group of mostly youth Greeks who participate in a Facebook sparked sit-in protest in front of the parliament over the past ten days.
"Faced with a new round of massive lay offs from the closure of state- run companies this autumn, cutbacks on salaries and tax hikes which lead the Greek society to extreme poverty, we call on people to rise up and defend their rights in every possible way against continuing attacks on their rights and the sell out of state assets," said GSEE head Yiannis Panagopoulos, addressing Saturday's demonstration.
Greek labor unions will participate in an anti-austerity protest across Europe scheduled for Sunday June 5, and have called for a nationwide strike in banks and work stoppages in public utility companies affected by the privatization program on June 9 and a general strike on June 15 across Greece in all sectors.
The socialist government responds that the painful policies are vital to overcome the crisis and return to growth in 2013. Without the 12 billion euro (17.38 billion U.S. dollars) tranche of aid from the 110-billion euro package secured last year, Greece would default this July.
Greece avoided default last year thanks to the EU-IMF aid, pledging austerity and reform measures to tackle the crisis, but due to the slow pace of reforms over the past few months, the government is currently under pressure to accelerate positive results with further harsh policies.