Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

Strikes to disrupt all travel in Greece February 24


The largest private and public sector unions in Greece plan a 24-hour nationwide strike for Wednesday, February 24, canceling all flights to/from/within Greece, bringing the majority of public transport to a halt and closing airports, banks, archaeological sites and museums.

Representing half of Greece’s 5 million work force, private sector union GSEE, communists workers group PAME and public sector union ADEDY are protesting austerity measures that impose tax increases, raise the retirement age and reduce salaries, pensions and benefits. Workers also have a long list of demands that include wage increases, job security and access to free, upgraded health care services.

Nationwide strikes in Greece made headlines on February 10 when the much-hyped 24-hour strike by ADEDY attempted to challenge government authority and “cripple or paralyze” the country. With many sharing the sentiment, “What good does it do to strike when it just means the government gets to keep my pay?,” only 5,000 of one million public sector employees protested in the rainy streets of Athens and Thessaloniki (The Nation).

Farmers ended their month-long blockade on February 16, the same day custom officials began a three-day strike and tax officials canceled walkout for February 17. Custom officials renewed strikes Friday February 19 when taxi drivers and fuel tankers staged a 24-hour protest, but the three rolling, 48-hour strikes intended to last through Wednesday fizzled when workers returned to work even before a court ruled their action illegal.

In a weekend poll by Greek newspaper Ethnos, 57.6 percent of Greeks consider belt-tightening to be going in the right direction, 74.2 percent think the government was too slow to react and 75.8 percent say they oppose strikes during a crisis.

Stay informed of current and future strikes at: or follow me at

What services are affected?

— All airports closed between 00:00-23:59, all flights canceled: Passengers should have received notification. Anyone who did not should call their airline or travel agent now.

— No ships, some ferry services affected

— No OSE national train service

— No Athens trolleys, no Athens metro (blue/red lines), no Athens tram service: See public transport options below.

— No Proastiakos (suburban railway services): See public transport options below.

— Public utilities will be affected: No specific disruptions announced, but residents and businesses may be subject to rolling strikes, i.e., no electricity, no water, no phone or Internet service.

— Hospitals staffed with emergency personnel only

— All Greek public sector offices, courthouses closed: No transactions or hearings.

— All museums and archaeological sites closed: Tourists should plan visit for Tuesday or wait until Thursday.

— Teachers on strike: Schools closed, though some children have a half day. It’s Greece, it depends.

— Banks in Greece closed

— Greek media blackout: No news broadcasts, no newspapers

— Lawyers in Thessaloniki on strike.

There will also be two scheduled protests in the center of Athens, one at 11:00 in Pedion Areos and another at 12:00 in Omonia Square, which means streets will be closed to traffic.

Public transport options — Partial strikes

— Athens metro, green line (ISAP) will only run between 10:00-16:00

— Buses in Athens (ETHEL) will operate between 7:30-22:00 (best option): They are only striking from 5:00-7:30 and 22:00 to end of shift.

— Buses in Thessaloniki (OASTH) will be on strike between 6:00-20:00: In another words, bus service is only available 4:30-6:00 and 20:00-23:30

KTEL long-distance buses in Greece made no announcement: Travelers are advised to call in advance.

Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines announce flight cancellations & changes

If you have a flight with Olympic Air or Aegean Airlines, please note that all flights for February 24 are canceled. Anyone with a flight on February 23 may have an altered schedule and is advised to follow the links provided. Both announcements are in English this time and contain contact information.

Olympic Air

Flight changes for February 23: OA 147/148, 207/208, 245/246, 266, 463/464, 520/521,  718/719, 918, see “Olympic Air Press Release 22.02.2010.”

Aegean Airlines

Flight changes for February 23: A3 137, 136, 606/607, see “Aegean Airlines Press Release 22.02.2010.”


Δελτίο Τύπου – 24ωρη Γενική Απεργία στις 24-2-2010 ” — ΓΣΕΕ
Απεργία 24 Φεβρουαρίου 2010” — ΑΔΕΔΥ
Τι αλλάζει στις συγκοινωνίες την Τετάρτη” — Ta Nea
Πανεργατική απεργία την Τετάρτη” — Eleftherotypia
Flight cancellations and changes on February 24, 2010” — Olympic Air
“ΟΑΣΘ: Χωρίς λεωφορεία από τις 06:00 εως τις 20:00 την Τετάρτη” (article removed) —
“Με σοβαρά προβλήματα οι μεταφορές την Τετάρτη” (article removed) — Kathimerini
Nea” —
«Έμφραγμα» στις μετακινήσεις λόγω της απεργίας” — Ta Nea
Διαδήλωση – γκάλοπ απέναντι στην ισοπέδωση” — Eleftherotypia
Teachers on strike February 24” — Eleftherotypia

Greece to discuss austerity with EU, IMF” — WSJ
Greeks say belt tightening in right direction- poll” — Reuters
Greek farmers end blockade in government victory” – Reuters
“Greek customs officials extend strike” — AP (article removed)
Fuel deliveries may resume as strike wanes” — Kathimerini
Customs strike in Greece ruled illegal” — Business Week
Greek taxis halted” — Reuters

Related posts

Three-day tourist ticket grants unlimited transport in Athens
All flights canceled due to nationwide strike in Greece
Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air announce merger” — CTV

Image capture from


  Cheryl wrote @ February 23rd, 2010 at 13:00

I just found out about the teachers when I picked up my daughter. Weeeee …here we go again. !!

Note from Kat: Article was posted and announced on the Living in Greece Twitter account at 4:30 a.m.:

  FMS wrote @ February 23rd, 2010 at 15:06

The collective IQ of the Greek population must be unusually low, indicating a genetic difference from the rest of the human species. I saw that one union chief announced, justifying the strikes, that “people are more important than markets”. In one idiotic phrase, he has revealed that Greeks do not believe themselves to be part of the global capitalist economy. Maybe we should suggest annexing Greece to North Korea or China: let’s see how the standard of living changes without all the subsidies and embezzled money from the EU.

  dora wrote @ February 23rd, 2010 at 16:11

Just try to stay safe, Kat.

  maria v wrote @ February 23rd, 2010 at 20:16

people talk about greek strikes as if greeks are generally lazy people and they all go on strike every time a strike is announced, but this simply isnt the case.

as a frontistirio teacher, i have never been on strike – the owner of the frontistirio once closed it down on a strike day becos he felt forced to by the forntistirio’s union…

maybe it would have been better to throw us out of the EU – the county’s image has clearly portrayed that of a disobedient spoilt child. the public sector has caused the economic problems of greece, so it should be the one to suffer. and the public sector strikes on a regular basis – and it’s always on a wednesday, the middle of the week, giving themsleves a mid-week weekend…

but the general private sector – shops, cafes, supermarkets, accountants, etc, – they dont stirke, except again on that one -or was it two – days in greek history when the frontistirios closed down due to strike reasons.

why doesnt the private sector go on strike? are we all happy in our jobs? are we afraid that we will suffer repercussions?

no one gives credit to the private sector that keeps greece working.

ps FMS: the collective IQ of the Greek population is not low – possibly the collective IQ of the Greek public sector is, but that does not reflect the whole nation – they only account for 25% (or less now) of the country. to see the collective IQ of the greek people, look at the greeks outside of greece, and not those still here. look expecially at the younger ones (ie under 35), who decided to stay on in the country where they might have been studying, and not return to a greece that could not offer them a job. i think you will find that teh collective IQ of those greeks is much higher than you would have expected

Kat Reply:

Note that a portion of the public sector is on strike tomorrow, plus I do say in the article that much of the public sector did not strike on Feb 10 because they want to give the gov’t a chance and can’t afford to lose money.

The public sector accounts for 22.3 percent of the labor force (not the population), but salaries were increased 30 percent since 2001 and productivity did not increase at the same rate, in fact Greece ranked amongst one of the most wasteful in the world. Public sector workers in Italy make up 14.5 percent of the labor force for nearly six times the population of Greece. Firing some people would trim an estimated 18 billion from the budget, which is hardly anything to scoff at.

Watching people work here in comparison to much of the developed world (and developing countries) is like watching a movie in slow motion. That said, I know a lot of hard-working people who run at the speed of light, break a sweat, travel and are nowhere near lazy; but for every one of them, I know at least nine others who say they work hard but greatly exaggerate.

And though Greeks as a population are some of the most educated per capita, one must look below the surface to see if they bought their term papers and actually learned anything beyond memorization. Greeks were shown to be amongst some of the most knowledge poor — just below Poland and just above Aruba and Croatia, which fares badly for innovation and long-term competitiveness in a sustainable economy.

“Knowledge Economy Index”:

Not everyone in the Greek diaspora is a genius, same as any other ethnic group, and IQ has nothing to do with success. Many thrive abroad simply because the market dynamic allows it; it doesn’t necessarily have to do with intelligence or education.

  maria v wrote @ February 23rd, 2010 at 23:28

my personal experience of the public sector is the one we often hear about: lazy unproductive staff that make no attempt to serve or offer. they seem to work just as you say – like a slow motion movie.

i did make special mention of those greeks studying abroad who decided not to return to greece to look for work – they probably didnt buy their term papers (but i personally doubt that many greeks buy their term papers anyway – as for memorisation, that is being phased out of the school system)

as for those those knowledge indexes, they (as usual) feature northern european and ‘new world’ countries at the top (ie the ‘best’) end – this may imply that the index is based on similar factors that put those same countries in the top positions on other ‘who’s the best’ lists, eg best cities/countries to live in, work in, travel around, etc. i say this because of my own experience of the displayed knowledge and logic of the average greek school student i taught – but then again, i was judging them by my own experiences of ‘a good education system’ which to my mind was the one i had been raised in, which i notice has changed in form and function from my time…

Kat Reply:

When I say slow motion, I’m talking about a majority in Greece regardless of sector, municipality or industry; and I’m not the only person who remarks on this. When I lived on the islands, it was worse. If a majority of Greeks were the energetic, hard working people they claim, there’s no way productivity and output as a population would be so dismal.

Ta Nea reported that buying term papers is a common practice in Greece, and I’ve encountered this with several of my bosses and colleagues (not friends) asking me to write their papers before they turn to these services. Of course no one admits to it so there aren’t hard stats, but they’re doing a brisk business here.

Πωλούνται πτυχιακές. Τιμή συζητήσιμη!

I have nothing more to say. This is an informative post about what services are on strike today, and FMS’s related comment resulted from what one of these union bosses said publicly. It was not wholly serious; a knee-jerk reaction is seldom appropriate if there is uncertainty about the context or tone.

  FMS wrote @ February 24th, 2010 at 03:24

Maria V: Yes, i was trying to be provocative:-) It’s my response to the usual Greek claims of genetic superiority…

Two things I will say, regardless of any genetic issues. The first is that able and educated Greeks rarely remain in Greece, because they are not adequately employed or remunerated for their skills. Even those who return from the US, UK, France, Germany etc just give up eventually and leave again. It is somehow more difficult for the diaspora Greeks to admit defeat and return to their country of origin, so many do struggle along. The point is that the institutions, practices and laws of Greece reward corruption and failure and offer nothing to able people. These strikes merely perpetuate that tradition, and offer nothing for the future of Greece.

The second point, which Kat has also mentioned above, is that even in the private sector there are extremely serious problems. I do not make a great distinction between public and private in Greece, although almost all Greeks do so. From my informed outsider’s perspective (and I have worked in both sectors) I can tell you that the private sector cannot compete with the rest of Europe. The skills of the staff are minimal, where they do exist are unexploited and unrewarded by the management/owners, and the friends and relatives of the owner are paid massively more than more skilled workers who are not part of the little clique. This is not modern capitalism: it is a perverted version of feudalism masquerading as a capitalist economy. This is why the workforce in Greece is so seriously underpaid and overworked in terms of hours put in: there is no evaluation of workers’ contributions to the private sector business, and no correlation with the wages they receive. Furthermore, the capital investment needed in the private sector — in both physical infrastructure and employee training — is so low as to resemble Turkey more than Eastern Europe. Why? mostly, because owners of businesses making profits take the money out for personal consumption, and couldn’t give a **** about the future of their business.

So, in both sectors useless and corrupt people are employed (sometimes at inflated salaries) and competent or skilled people are not recognised as such. If you accept my formulation of the problem, logically you also have to accept that market forces are a far superior way of organising work and pay in Greece. This is in direct opposition to the opinion of the trades unions and others on the “left” in Greece. I say this as an advocate of social democracy, but this is because in Greece social democracy seems to have been hijacked by the ideology of corruption and fraud as an alternative to market forces.

  maria v wrote @ February 24th, 2010 at 08:49

Kat, isn’t it true that ‘buying degrees’ and getting other people to write a term paper for you is common in many parts of the world? It happens in highly reputable educational institutes all over the world – i have problems myself trying to distinguish between a student’s real work and the copied/written-by-sb-else work that I’m often presented with.

here’s an instance of someone in england who has the same problem with some of his university students (who admittedly come from similarly corrupt countries with hijacked social democracies like Greece):

in any case, Kat and FMS, you know i can see the problems in this country – i’m not disagreeing with you about greece’s inability and non-desire to prove that it can stand on its own two feet – i simply dont believe that it needs to be constantly compared to northern european and ‘new world’ countries, when they too have very serious progress issues of their own. my opinions are based on what i hear and read from tv and websites, things that dont always make the front page news items, but they are there for people to read:

Kat Reply:

If you don’t understand why comparing Greece to other troubled economies is ridiculous, there’s nothing I can do to explain it to you.

  Bel Ludovic wrote @ February 24th, 2010 at 10:47

Interesting to hear informed comment on the private sector; the public sector’s problems are well-known, but little is said of the private sector. If the private sector is as described, then it makes the situation seem even more hopeless. How does one change such an entrenched and all-round wretched state of affairs? And this is before we even touch upon other areas of the Greek state in a similar condition, such as the education sector! There seems to be so much that needs root-and-branch reform on so many fronts that it must surely be beyond the ability of any government.

The strike today is typical of the prevailing mentality that underpins it all. The unions must surely know that their action is the epitome of pointlessness and that the government cannot and will not avoid the implementation of austerity measures. And yet, despite 75% of the population opposing strikes during the crisis, they’re going to go ahead anyway, causing further damage to Greece’s economy and already-tattered world image, and inconvenience for all. Perhaps it’s just a default response for them; an unthinking reflex to any – literally, ANY – change or reform.

It seems to me that Greece’s unions are deluded, selfish, and out of control. They’re run by bullies to whom successive governments have capitulated far too often, and they cling on to an outmoded ideology that half of Europe outright rejected twenty years ago. I suspect Greece will not truly change until a prime minister comes along with the courage to rein in the unions once and for all. Could be a long wait, then.

Kat Reply:

Hi Bel, nice to hear from you again. Papandreou, who inherited both his father’s legacy and a country in its worst since the war, has so far resisted giving into unions. He and his administration aren’t faultless as no government is, but he has some Greek-specific cultural and sociopolitical issues to tackle. This in itself is a huge obstacle.

The egocentric, “f*ck my neighbor” mentality behind the strikes has worn on the general public almost to the point of being intolerable, especially for those depending on tourism for their livelihood, the unemployed and anyone working two jobs with no family or property to fall back on. Unions say they represent millions, but in reality less than half are members and they’re never polled on whether they want to strike or protest. Therefore, unions don’t necessarily speak or act on behalf of a majority.

There are a lot of (sane) people who understand the jig is up, that a history of lies, broken promises, non-implementation, fabricated stats and pissed away EU money (of which GR was top beneficiary) funded by foreigners has tarnished Greece’s credibility on the world stage. They put on a brave face but deep down are really frightened for the future on the long road ahead.

On the other side is a small percentage who stand under a “We didn’t create the crisis” banner, oblivious to the fact that they or their ancestors did participate: lavish spending, early retirement, bribes, tax evasion, delaying working life by staying at university for eight years, cheating the system, price gouging tourists or neighbors, being immigrant unfriendly, biting the hand that feeds (EU, EU member states), finger pointing, name calling…the list goes on. They believe the world is unfairly picking on Greece and accuse them of being hypocritical, arrogant and racist (takes one to know one). It’s “us vs. them.” Even if other nations were as bad or worse, Greece needs to mind its business, bear down and step up. Plain but apparently not simple. If Greece were not part of the euro, I doubt anyone would care if its economy tanked.

You know better than I do that Greeks will unite against a common enemy but are just as likely to turn on each other. In this case, the enemy is themselves. What can be done then? Certainly, strikes are not the answer.

  FMS wrote @ February 24th, 2010 at 10:55

maria v: by chance, about half of my employment these last 20 years has been teaching in universities in England and Greece. I feel able to offer a comparison, and some analysis of the issue. First, I never knowingly encountered plagiarism in the UK university system: incompetence, rote learning, laziness — yes. But no plagiarism. A colleague in LSE once complained to me about some Masters students from a country not too far from Greece, where they regularly attempted to bribe him; and how accepting those bribes would have made a real difference to the quality of life for an underpaid Lecturer in London.

Secondly, I have not encountered very much plagiarism directly in Greece, at either undergraduate or postgrad level. Problematic issues have largely revolved around part-time students (usually working in ministries) who seem to have employed someone else to write their essays. For me, this reflects the “culture of corruption” problem in Greece; by this, I mean that it is likely that such students and their families are part of the corrupted networks of nepotism that have been destroying Greece for decades or longer.

Thirdly, outside of the university sphere I am more aware of the problem of fakery of diplomas etc. I have even been asked if I can get hold of Cambridge TEFL certificates (as I am British). Routinely, many Greek people are quite happy to use fake diplomas, it seems.

So, is there a problem in Greece? My answer is Yes, because these cultural practices are commonplace in Third World countries, and somehow are integrated into the cultural-economic system there. Greece is not a third world country, yet its population and governments have systematically behaved as such throughout these last decades. I believe that Simitis (mistakenly) thought that taking Greece into the Eurozone would provide a sort of shock treatment that might impel Greeks into a modern era. He was wrong, since it has merely resulted in the current crisis. The fakery, nepotism and denial of the value of meritocracy that characterises Greece is incompatible with European economies and societies. This is not to say that all is rosy elsewhere — far from it. Nevertheless, the degree to which Greece and Greeks reject competition as an organisational principle places the cultures squarely in the Middle East, and outside of the European mainstream. For a country without massive oil reserves, that means looking more like Yemen than Saudi Arabia.

  Bel Ludovic wrote @ February 24th, 2010 at 13:57

Thanks for that, Kat. It’s good to know that the majority of Greeks seem to have properly understood the situation and that it’s only a minority that persist in the usual ridiculous denials, blame, conspiracy theories and refusal to accept responsibility for anything. Unfortunately it’s quite a vocal minority, so it’s all too easy to assume that the opposite is true.

I’ve often wondered, when listening to someone talk total nonsense about how it’s all an Anglo-American ‘plot’, how Germans should be grateful Greeks bought so many BMWs during the good times, and other such claptrap, just how reflective of wider Greek opinion these views are. I’m always trying to establish in my mind just what exactly is the ratio of sane, rational Greeks to the hotheads who seem so detached from the real world. I guess it’s impossible to say definitively… which makes anecdotally the next best thing.

Kat Reply:

People who scream the loudest and longest usually have nothing of real value to say. I encounter this a lot when discussing an issue, and the other person talks over me or raises irrational and irrelevant arguments. At that point, there’s little point in continuing.

GSEE reported participation of: Shipyards – refineries 100%, ships – ports 100%, construction 90%, banks – DEH – OTE – Post Office – Train 70%. But it doesn’t mean that everyone was on the street; many use it as a day off and enjoyed sunshine at a cafe or with their children.

As a side note, only 27,000 people in Athens and 7,000 in Thessaloniki of 2.5 million protested on the streets today, and the strike fell short of achieving what unions had hoped but further damaged Greece’s credibility as a tourist-friendly destination and reliable business partner. A few dozen stone-throwing youth on the fringe were quickly dispersed by police. It was not a riot as reported by foreign correspondents, and these people were not anarchists or protesters, just bored hoodlums with a day off from school who took advantage of TV coverage as often happens. A sad portrayal of Greece to show the world.

I think today’s Kathimerini commentary aptly addresses what you said and where we are in Greece: “Two ways to go

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