Greek doctors, public transport workers on strike

Updated 31 January 2013
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Greek doctors, public transport workers on strike

ATHENS: Greek doctors, port workers and public transport staff in the country’s capital walked off the job on Thursday in strikes against deeply unpopular austerity measures that have seen incomes slashed as the country struggles to emerge from a deep financial crisis.
Hundreds of protesters gathered at separate demonstrations, with port workers rallying in Greece’s main port of Piraeus and about 500 public hospital workers chanting slogans outside the Health Ministry in central Athens.
One of the demonstrators, Tassos Antonopoulos, a member of the Greek Federation of Public Hospital Workers, said it wasn’t just medical staff who were suffering because of the cuts.
“People have less and more expensive options,” he said. “It is not possible for the citizens of this country, at a time when they are suffering from this situation and the crisis in the country, to not find the care that they deserve in the public hospitals.”
The strikes left Athens without buses, suburban rail and trolleys for the day, while Greek islands will be without ferry services for two days. With doctors and ambulance workers also on strike, public hospitals were functioning with emergency staff only on Thursday.
The capital’s subway system was running, however, as its workers were still under a civil mobilization order after the government invoked rare emergency powers last week to end an eight-day metro strike.
The civil servants’ union declared a three-hour work stoppage at all public services from noon in solidarity, shutting down other services such as post offices.
Greece has been gripped by a severe financial crisis since late 2009 and is being kept afloat by billions of euros in rescue loans from other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund. In return, the government has imposed wave upon wave of spending cuts and tax hikes, leading to severe salary and pension cuts and leaving unemployment spiraling to above 26 percent. Many of those still employed have not received paychecks in months.
“We want collective agreements to be signed, and back payments for working people to be paid,” said Savas Tsiboglou, head of the Greek Association of Merchant Marine Mechanics, as he demonstrated Thursday morning in Piraeus.
Workers have been protesting the abolition of collective wage agreements and planned reforms to the pension and income contribution system. Other measures that took effect this year include a 25 percent cut to the incomes of most public servants, leading to a string of new strikes and protests.
Separately, farmers in central Greece parked their tractors along the country’s main highway for a second day, under the watchful eye of riot police, threatening to shut the road to protest spending cuts and high fuel taxes.
Similar protests by farmers in the past have led to widespread disruption to transport and the supply of goods, with the central north-south highway shut for weeks.
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Srdjan Nedeljkovic in Athens contributed.


Trump’s travel ban faces US Supreme Court showdown

Updated 22 April 2018
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Trump’s travel ban faces US Supreme Court showdown

  • The high court has never decided the legal merits of the travel ban.
  • The challengers have argued the policy was motivated by Trump’s enmity toward Muslims.

WASHINGTON: The first big showdown at the US Supreme Court over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies is set for Wednesday when the justices hear a challenge to the lawfulness of his travel ban targeting people from several Muslim-majority countries.
The case represents a test of the limits of presidential power. Trump’s policy, announced in September, blocks entry into the US of most people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. Chad previously was on the list but Trump lifted those restrictions on April 10.
The high court has never decided the legal merits of the travel ban or any other major Trump immigration policy, including his move to rescind protections for young immigrants sometimes called Dreamers brought into the US illegally as children. It has previously acted on Trump requests to undo lower court orders blocking those two policies, siding with him on the travel ban and opposing him on the Dreamers. Trump’s immigration policies — also including actions taken against states and cities that protect illegal immigrants, intensified deportation efforts and limits on legal immigration — have been among his most contentious. 
The conservative-majority Supreme Court is due to hear arguments on Wednesday on the third version of a travel ban policy Trump first sought to implement a week after taking office in January 2017, and issue a ruling by the end of June. 
The lead challenger is the state of Hawaii, which argues the ban violates federal immigration law and the US Constitution’s prohibition on the government favoring one religion over another.
“Right now, the travel ban is keeping families apart. It is degrading our values by subjecting a specific set of people to be denigrated and marginalized,” Hawaii Lt. Governor Doug Chin said in an interview.
The Supreme Court on Dec. 4 signaled it may lean toward backing Trump when it granted the administration’s request to let the ban go into full effect while legal challenges played out.
In another immigration-related case, the justices on April 17 invalidated a provision in a US law requiring deportation of immigrants convicted of certain crimes of violence. Trump’s administration and the prior Obama administration had defended the provision.
'Politically correct'
Trump has said the travel ban is needed to protect the US from terrorism by militants. Just before the latest ban was announced, Trump wrote on Twitter that the restrictions “should be far larger, tougher and more specific — but stupidly that would not be politically correct!“
The challengers have argued the policy was motivated by Trump’s enmity toward Muslims, pressing that point in lower courts with some success by citing statements he made as a candidate and as president. As a candidate, Trump promised “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
The Justice Department argues Trump’s statements as a candidate carry no weight because he was not yet president. The policy’s challengers also point to views he has expressed as president, including his retweets in November of anti-Muslim videos posted by a far-right British political figure.
In a court filing last week, US Solicitor General Noel Francisco, representing Trump in court, said those retweets “do not address the meaning” of the travel ban policy.
Francisco cited Trump statements complimentary toward Muslims and Islam, including in a May 2017 speech in Saudi Arabia.
In defending the ban, the administration has pointed to a waiver provision allowing people from targeted countries to seek entry if they meet certain criteria. The State Department said that as of last month 375 waivers to the travel ban had been granted since the policy went into effect on Dec 8.