As Greece and its international lenders continued talks on Thursday (22 October) to test its compliance with terms of an €86bn (£62bn, $95.5bn) bailout agreement, thousands of people rallied in Athens over the tax hikes and pension cutbacks included in the cash-for-reforms deal.
Workers, pensioners and students carrying union flags, banners and chanting "no more sacrifices for the plutocrats" joined the protest, which was called by the Greek Communist party's trade union PAME. The left-wing government has passed legislation raising the retirement age, increasing healthcare contributions, scrapping most early retirement benefits and clamping down on tax evasion.
The next phase includes taxing farmers, raising tax for private education, merging pension funds and addressing bad loans, which are blamed for weakening banks and stunting growth, since lenders cannot extend new credit.
"The measures that will be introduced will be very harsh and that is why people must unite and fight back together. Workers, the unemployed, farmers and their families must fight so that they can resist these barbaric and cruel measures," said Greek Communist party leader, Dimitris Koutsoubas.
Civil servants and private-sector workers have called a nation-wide strike for 12 November, the first signs of mass dissent since Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's Syriza government was elected in January. Tsipras' government was elected on an anti-austerity platform in January, but had to backtrack and agree to tough reforms or face the prospect of a financial meltdown and leaving the euro zone.
French President Francois Hollande, who strongly supported Greece's place in the euro through acrimonious talks in the summer, arrived in Athens on Thursday on a two-day official visit to boost French investment in the debt-laden country.