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Greek protesters break into the defence ministry

Friday, October 05, 2012    

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ATHENS, Greece — More than 200 employees of a Greek shipyard yesterday broke into the courtyard of the country's defence ministry in Athens to protest against non-payment of their wages, police said.

They broke down barriers at the entry and anti-riot forces were sent in half-an- hour later using clubs and gas to remove them. When they refused to leave they were arrested en masse.

The chief of staff had earlier tried to speak to them but was shouted down with cries of "Thieves! Thieves!" television pictures showed.

Defence Minister Panos Panayotopoulos, who was at an official ceremony at the port of Piraeus as the incident began, let it be known he would meet the demonstrators on condition they left the ministry.

The protest briefly blocked traffic on the busy major thoroughfare on which the ministry is situated.

The demonstrators said they had not been paid for several months while their place of work, Hellenic Shipyards, at Skaramangas in the industrial suburbs of Piraeus, was threatened by bankruptcy.

It was sold in 2010 by its previous owners, the German industrial conglomerate ThyssenKrupp, to the Abu Dhabi Mar group, but has been operating at less than capacity for months as it depends on modernisation contracts from the Greek armed forces, which have been suspended or delayed by the country's financial crisis.

Doctors and nurses at public hospitals were also due to demonstrate on Thursday at the health ministry in Athens, in protest against pay and budget cuts planned in the latest round of austerity measures, the fourth since 2010, which the government is negotiating with its creditors: the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The planned adoption of new austerity measures, tabled in Parliament on Monday, has led to an increase in social tensions, but the EU and the IMF have made continuing financial aid conditional on them.

— AFP

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