Athens, Greece (CNN) — The size and scale of the protests in Greece are hard to ignore. Athenians filled Constitution Square in the heart of the capital protesting the austerity measures being put forward by the government of George Papandreou. This is his first major test on the ground since taking office last autumn.
It is quite easy to be swept up into the strike action in Greece and the other labor protests we have been witnessing in Europe this week from the airline sector (Lufthansa and British Airways) to the energy sector (French giant Total), but it would be a mistake to see them as classic disputes over wages.
In Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy protests go right to the heart of what many in the labor movement and broader society see as a birthright — to continue to enjoy benefits that in today’s globalized world are disappearing fast.
Taking Greece for example, investors saw the recent strike by Ministry of Finance workers as somewhat ironic since they are the very members of the civil service who are at the forefront of the restructuring plan itself.
It is not often discussed, but many government workers enjoy preferential tax rates, can retire at the age of 54 (in some cases earlier) and enjoy 14 months of pay for 12 months worked.