Greek Shipyard Workers Take The Offensive, Break Into Defense Ministry

ATHENS–Greek shipyard workers clashed with riot police Thursday after protesters stormed the country’s defence ministry in a dispute over unpaid wages.

The protestors forced their way past gated guard posts and entered restricted areas on the ministry campus. Police fired tear gas and attempted to push the protestors back to the entrance. Television pictures from the privately-owned SKAI television channel showed at least one protestor had been arrested while another had been injured in clashes with the police.

The protesters from the Skaramanagas shipyard outside Athens–which mainly works on naval contracts on order from the Greek governemnt–complain that they have not been paid in six months and demanded an audience with Greek Defense Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos, who was not present at the ministry on Thursday.

The demonstration comes as the Greek government prepares a 13.5 billion euros ($17.4 billion) package of further spending cuts and tax measures aimed at narrowing its budget deficit and in order to win fresh aid from its European and international creditors.

The new austerity measures, which have prompted various demonstrations around the country in the past few weeks, is the latest in more than two years of cutbacks that have pushed the economy deep into recession.

But in an effort to preserve its cash reserves, Greece’s government has also been withholding payment to its contractors. According to the latest data, Greece’s government had EUR7.9 billion in accumulated arrears at of August.

Separate protests over the austerity measures by doctors and Greece’s Communist Party are also scheduled to take place Thursday.

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