ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Hundreds of Greek state hospital workers marched Thursday through central Athens as part of a 24-hour strike to protest staff shortages and compulsory coronavirus vaccinations.
About 500 protesters demonstrated in the center of the capital, heading past parliament toward the health ministry chanting slogans and holding up banners.
Unions representing the doctors, nurses and other medical staff are protesting government plans they say exacerbate staffing shortages and lead to long working hours while undermining workers’ rights. Medical workers are also seeking to be included in the list of professions receiving extra hazard pay for “heavy and unhealthy” work.
The unions have also objected to the suspension of unvaccinated health care workers, saying this only leads to further staff shortages. Faced with rising infections and reluctance by many to get vaccinated, the government has introduced a series of incentives and penalties to encourage Greeks to get their anti-COVID-19 shots.
Vaccinations have been made mandatory for health care workers and those working in care homes for the elderly, with those who refuse being suspended from work. Just over 60% of Greece’s population of around 11 million people are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The unions say that while they support vaccinations, individual staff members should have the right to choose.
Greece has seen a spike in coronavirus infections this summer, and new daily cases stand at around 3,000. On Wednesday, the country saw 3,279 new cases and 38 new deaths, bringing the total confirmed cases to over 704,000 and the total death toll to nearly 15,500 in the country of nearly 11 million.