Eurozone chiefs rage at Greek PM, global unions demand Robin Hood tax

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Furious eurozone leaders demanded "an explanation" from Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou over his decision to offer the Greek people a referendum on the EU bailout deal. He is expected to arrive in Cannes, France on Nov. 2, the site of the G-20 meet, reports the UK's Morning Star.

 

At the same time, union leaders across the globe demanded a Robin Hood tax on financial speculators to help relieve the world economic crisis. (See video below.)

Hours after Papandreou gained his Cabinet's backing for the referendum, officials gathered in the elite resort for the G20 economic summit hinted that France and Germany would put pressure on him to call it off.

The embattled PM claims that a Yes vote would give his government "a clear mandate" to push through the devastating assault on workers' salaries, pensions and the public sector demanded by the EU and IMF  as the price for loans to repay its debts to French and German banks, at a 50 percent loss, reports the Associated Press.

In exchange, Greece receives about $140 billion in rescue loans from European nations and the International Monetary Fund.

But Greeks have been outraged by repeated rounds of tax increases and salary and pension cuts imposed as the government struggles to meet the conditions of a first $153 billion bailout the country has been relying on since May 2010, suggesting the people would reject the new deal.

A No vote would raise the prospect of a formal default and the country's withdrawal from the eurozone, says the Morning Star.

While some Greeks support the call for a referendum, others, including members of Papandreou's own party, PASOK, heaped scorn upon it.

"Why call for a referendum when everything has been decided already? So they can shed their responsibilities and create a problem for Greek people? It's not right," said shop owner Dora Sigala, reported Euornews.net.

Pensioner Angelos Paraskevopoulos agreed, saying, "The poll represents the government's failure and this is an attempt to blame it on the people. If this referendum takes place there will be no good outcome. If we vote for the IMF we're condemned and we're also condemned if we return to the drachma."

Several Socialist lawmakers openly rebelled, with one going as far as defecting, which whittled Papandreou's parliamentary majority to just two deputies, leaving the party with 152 seats in the 300-member legislature, reports the Associated Press.

A No vote would rock financial markets and lead to huge losses for speculators, says Morning Star.

Germany warned yesterday that the €130 billion deal cobbled together last week was "non-negotiable."

In general, EU proposals have a track record of being decisively rejected when put to the popular vote so the organization's big guns closed ranks to browbeat Greece into submission.

A spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel complained that Greece had "a responsibility to its European partners" because a "decision in one capital has effects on other countries."

Greek government officials said today that the referendum could be held in December - the same month the government will need the next installment of its bailout loan to avoid bankruptcy.

That is if Papandreou survives a confidence vote called for Nov. 4.

Meanwhile, labor leaders from around the globe are gathering near the G-20 economic summit to represent the needs of the world's workers.

Among their demands is a Robin Hood tax on banks and financial institutions that would exact a nano-percentage of each financial transaction to the tune of 0.5 percent, reports AFL-CIO Now Blog. (Story continues after video.)

Also known as a financial speculations tax, or a financial transactions tax, Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation says, "Banks don't come with an internal switch that says 'Enough! Let's slow down a little.' Or 'Let's just share this wealth around for the benefit of the community now.' We need a new political contract. The G-20 leaders' meeting...is a chance for leaders to set a new direction for their governments and to re-establish a fractured trust with their citizens."

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will join union leaders at the Labor Summit in Cannes to call for governments around the world to focus on creating jobs and to raise much-needed revenue from financial speculators via a Robin Hood tax.

For more on the Robin Hood tax, click here.

Photo: Protesters hold a banner which reads in Greek "We are struggling to live" at a protest in central Athens on Nov. 2. (Petros Giannakouris/AP)

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