Hundreds of people have held a demonstration in Athens to protest against the Greek government’s plan to privatize a Greek bank. Employees of the Hellenic Post Bank (HPB) staged a walkout outside the Finance Ministry on Monday. The new Greek coalition government initially announced plans to sell off national banks, such as HPB, in early September. HPB is a state-controlled lender and currently has over 2,000 employees. The protesters are united in their opposition to the government’s plan to privatize state banks and have urged Finance Minister Yannis Stournara to change his decision on the sale. HPB bank employees are likely to lose their jobs if the government sticks to the harsh strategy it has adopted to manage the economic crisis.
Workers are afraid “because jobs are being lost. Because this bank is for the poor, for the low-income earners, and from the moment this bank was created in 1900, it always helped the common depositor, the common man,” said a Hellenic employee.Athens has introduced austerity measures and other debt cutting methods to meet the conditions set by the European Union for receiving a 34.3-billion-euro aid package. With the rest of the package of almost 50 billion euros in financial assistance coming in March 2013, the government is pushing even harder to cut back debt in order to satisfy the eurozone's requirements. Greece has been at the epicenter of the eurozone debt crisis and is experiencing its sixth year of recession, while harsh austerity measures have left about half a million people without jobs. One in every five Greek workers is currently unemployed, banks are in a shaky position, and pensions and salaries have been slashed by up to 40 percent. Greek youths have also been badly affected, and more than half of them are unemployed. GVN/HGL