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Strike brings Greece to grinding halt

16 December 2010, 11:28

Athens - Traffic was snarled for hours in Athens on Thursday as the latest strike called by public transport workers to protest the government's austerity plan forced commuters to their cars or stay at home.

The 24-hour stoppage on Thursday by transport workers affected trams, buses, the underground and trains in Athens and the northern port city of Thessaloniki.

The country's journalists meanwhile called a new 48-hour strike for Friday and Saturday, causing a news blackout for TV, radio and internet services and newspapers will not be published.

The latest series of strikes follows a nationwide 24-hour strike on Wednesday. Violent clashes broke out in Athens as some 20,000 protesters demonstrated against new labour reforms in the debt-ridden country.

That strike saw all schools, hospitals and public sector services shut down in protest after parliament passed a new round of austerity reforms as part of conditions set by a $146bn international bailout.

Athens is implementing a wave of economic reforms as part of a bid to slash public spending in exchange for a rescue package from the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The socialist government has had to cut pensions and salaries, increased taxes and raised retirement ages as part of the conditions set out under the international bailout.

Parliament passed emergency legislation late Tuesday in a 156 to 130 vote that dictates a fresh round of pay cuts, involuntary staff transfers at state companies and relaxation of labour laws.

A new law that dictates a fresh round of pay cuts, involuntary staff transfers at state companies and which reduces unions' collective bargaining power in the private sector, allowing employers to substantially cut salaries, was passed earlier this week.


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