Thousands of Greeks have taken to the streets to show their rejection of the government's proposed austerity measures, which are supposed to right the country's flailing economy. Our Observer in Thessaloniki was in the middle of the protest there, along with his camera.
Craig Wherlock is a British expat based in Thessaloniki. He's a teacher at a private school.
I think there were between eight and nine thousand people in the streets [7,000 according to the police]. Unlike in Athens however, there were no clashes here.
The marchers were mainly public sector workers as their unions, like the PAME [communist], are the most active. But there were also employees from the private sector amongst them. Everybody's worried about the wage freeze, cuts to social benefits, an increase in VAT (from 19% to 21%) and the changing of the legal retirement age (currently 60 for women, 65 for men, but could be set at 67 for all).
People are really angry and feeling desperate. Most shop workers and even small factory employees aren't registered and therefore have no social security. They work up to 50 or 60 hours per week for only 600 euros a month [Read Craig's previous post on the high costs and low wages in Greece].
So they're wondering how the country managed to amount 300 billion euros of debt - what was that money spent on? Certainly not, they say, on public services or roads. The protestors have the impression that politicians robbed the country blind. With the former government, there was a corruption scandal every two months. So talk of wasted money is still rife. The former health minister ordered 16 million doses of the H1N1 flu vaccine, but only 400,000 were needed in the end.
I saw the slogan ‘plutocracy should pay for the crisis' - which pretty much sums up the feelings of the protestors."
"PIGS" stands for Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain.