Microsoft’s Greek headquarters were attacked by arsonists and government statisticians in Italy staged a sit-in pay protest as anti-austerity demonstrations continued to sweep the eurozone.
Microsoft’s Athens offices were seriously damaged after armed arsonists drove a stolen truck through the entrance in the early hours of Wednesday morning, and then set fire to it. The office, where more than 100 people work, will be shut for the day.
“It was very lucky that no personnel were in the building at the time,” said a police source. “We’ve had drive-by attacks but nothing like this. In style it is unprecedented.”
The ground floor of the US software giant’s office suffered heavy damage, which the fire brigade estimated about €60,000.
Arson attacks against banks, foreign firms and local politicians have become more frequent in Greece in recent years amid public anger against the government’s harsh austerity policies. Police said it was too early to say who was behind the latest attack. In February, a small bomb was left on an empty subway train in Athens, which a far-left group fighting the austerity measures claimed responsibility for.
In Italy, the protest by number crunchers delayed the release of Italian business morale data, as some 42 statisticians, researchers and computer technicians from ISTAT, Italy’s national statistics office, stormed the room where the data are normally handed out, and held a labour union meeting.
Francesca Taratamella, who works in the national accounting department, said staff were protesting against the stats office’s failure to award promotions to those who were entitled to them. She said she and her colleagues had been given extra work and responsibilities without any promotion or increase in wages.
“More in general, we are here to lament the freeze on new hires, on salary increases and on promotions … in the public sector,” she told Market News International.
Italian prime minister Mario Monti’s popularity has waned as he is implements painful austerity measures.
The staff protest at ISTAT meant the business confidence figures for June were published half an hour later than scheduled. When they were finally released, they showed a surprise improvement in morale in June, with the index rising to 88.9 from 86.6 in May.
Back in Greece, restaurant workers called a 24-hour strike for Wednesday to protest against wage cuts and other austerity measures imposed by the government. The strike comes in one of the key months for tourism, the country’s biggest industry.
“Employers are blatantly using the avalanche of measures, which are crushing the human and social rights of workers, to violently demand submission to their demands,” the Panhellenic Federation of Catering and Tourist Industry Employees said on its website.
[Fire rescuer in burned building via Tatiana Belova / Shutterstock]