© Reuters. Protesters take part in a rally commemorating May Day in Athens, Greece May 1, 2022. REUTERS/Costas Baltas
ATHENS (Reuters) – Metro trains ground to a halt and ships were docked in ports as thousands of workers joined May Day rallies in the Greek capital to protest against soaring energy and food prices.
Gas and power bills have surged, with price rises exacerbated by sanctions against Russia following its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, taking inflation in Greece to multi-year highs.
Police estimate that some 10,000 people marched in central Athens and gathered outside the Greek parliament over the cost of living that they say is becoming unaffordable.
“It is very tough, and every day it gets tougher for workers. We will fight it, because the working class cannot survive any more,” said Katerina Dekaristou, a teacher, standing outside the parliament.
Greece emerged from a decade of financial crisis in 2018, only for the pandemic to bring global travel to a halt two years later, hurting the tourism industry on which its economy relies.
The conservative government has subsidised power and gas bills to help cushion households and business at a total cost of 4 billion euros ($4.22 billion) since last September.
It has also increased the minimum wage to 713 euros a month from May 1, the second increase this year. But pay levels are still low, especially in the context of higher power bills.
“Everything has risen. Electricity has risen, gas has risen, necessities have risen. It’s chaotic. We can’t get paid fast enough to pay something else. We are trying with every means to cut out what is (not) necessary to pay these things,” Pantelis Iordanou, an car body painter, said.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has called on the European Union for joint action to deal with the situation, including a cap on gas prices.
No matter what Europe decides, the Greek government will announce further across-the-board measures this month to mitigate the impact on consumers, government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou told Greek television on Sunday.
($1 = 0.9488 euros)