Greek workers clash with police, each other, over cuts

Public servants march in central Athens, Greece, during a demonstration marking the 24-hours strike in public sector -- Feb. 10, 2010.

TEXT OF STORY

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: To Greece now, where a public worker strike and protests on the streets of Athens are aimed at the government. But what protesters really want is for the parliament to rethink plans for cutting pay, benefits and pensions. Think of it as Wisconsin, with better weather and feta cheese.

Joanna Kakissis reports there's a duel over which workers are protesting the loudest.


JOANNA KAKISSIS: School teachers and hospital workers were demonstrating again. But in this strike, some low-paid government employees on short-term contracts were speaking out against overpaid civil servants with lifetime jobs. A group of archaeologists were in the middle of the crowd, holding up banners that say the government is behaving in an uncivilized way.

Athanasios Stathis is an underwater archaeologist.

ATHANASIOS STATHIS: Almost all of the jobs are not permanent. They use us for three or two months or six months or eight months the most, and then they fire us.

JOANNA KAKISSIS: Is that what's happened to a lot of your colleagues?

ATHANASIOS STATHIS: Yes, a lot of them. With children, they are married, they have needs. But still, they are unemployed.

As always seems to happen in Greece, young people in hoods and masks broke out of the mostly peaceful crowd and fought with police. The deep cuts in public spending and benefits have sent the country deeper into recession -- but have also trimmed the government debt and kept Greece from going bankrupt.

In Athens, I'm Joanna Kakissis for Marketplace.

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