Greek workers to protest at high cost of living

The rising cost of living has replaced unemployment as the top concern for Greeks, who say basic goods are among the most expensive in Europe.

Greek workers to protest at high cost of living
Greek trade unions blamed the government on Thursday for failing to curb sharp increases in the cost of living as thousands of workers prepared to stage protest rallies in Athens.

The rising cost of living has replaced unemployment as the top concern for Greeks, who say basic goods are among the most expensive in Europe. Household budgets are squeezed by the highest inflation the country has seen in a decade.

"Costs are climbing beyond control. Business interests have staged a party while the government is duping us with its ineffective measures to contain rising prices," said the president of Greece's largest labour confederation, Yannis Panagopoulos.

Labour unions have called for rallies in the capital on Thursday to protest against the conservative government's failure to rein in the price increases.

Consistently above the euro zone average, Greek inflation hit a 10-year high of 4.9 percent in May, driven by soaring energy and food costs.

Based on official data, Greeks pay 12.9 percent more for fresh poultry than a year ago and 26 percent more for pasta. Butter costs 13 percent more and seed oil is up 37 percent.

But it is not just food prices that have dealt a blow to household budgets. Motorists pay 13 percent more for fuel than a year ago and heating oil costs 38 percent more.

Greece's largest labour unions GSEE and ADEDY, joined by consumer groups, claim only 0.9 percent of the 4.9 percent figure is imported inflation linked to fuel and commodities.

The rest has to do with government policies that allow business to profiteer at the expense of consumers, they say.

"In our country we have convergence of prices with Europe and divergence of wages," umbrella union GSEE said in a pamphlet. "In Europe industrial and bank profit growth ranges around 12 percent, in Greece it is double, at least 25 percent."

Business blames the global crisis for the rise in costs.

"The wave of price hikes is not only strangling households, pensioners and low income workers. It is also hurting businesses, trade and manufacturing," said Dimitris Daskalopoulos, head of industrial federation SEB.

The high cost of living is now the main economic worry in opinion polls, topping unemployment, and hurting the popularity of the government, which was re-elected in September 2007. Polls suggest no single party would win a parliamentary majority if elections were held now.
Last Mod: 19 Haziran 2008, 15:14
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