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Greek workers stage mass anti-austerity walkout  Join our daily free Newsletter

MENAFN - AFP - 06/11/2012

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(MENAFN - AFP) Greek workers began a two-day mass walkout on Tuesday, bringing public transport in Athens to a halt, in anger at a new government austerity bill introduced to secure international aid needed to prevent the debt-crippled nation from defaulting.

Public bus workers in the capital joined taxi drivers as well as metro, tram and train workers in the strike, paralysing traffic in the capital.

Air traffic was disrupted, with many flights to be cancelled as traffic controllers stayed away from work.

Ferry lines were also crippled, as ships linking to Greece's islands remained docked.

Thousands are also expected to join a march in Athens called by the country's two main labour unions, the GSEE and ADEDY, although the public transport strike could prevent many protesters from reaching the city centre.

The austerity package, which was put to parliament late on Monday, includes measures such as a rise in retirement age to 67, as well as cuts ranging from 5 percent to 15 percent for pensions that are more than 1,000 euros per month.

Salary cuts for academics, hospital doctors, judges, diplomats and members of the armed forces are also part of the package. There will also be cuts in the health sector.

Yiorgos Patras, a banker, said: "I believe these measures will affect the people very much because everything is being abolished, the labour rights and everything else won with blood and sweat."

"From what I see they are trying to abolish everything," he added.

Lawmakers will hold an emergency vote Wednesday on the 1,500-page austerity bill, which proposes 18.5 billion euros (23.6 billion) in new cuts and other reforms by 2016, said parliament officials.

Implementing the austerity plan is a precondition for Greece to qualify for a 31.5-billion-euro tranche of bailout funds from the European Union, International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.

Without it, Greece risks bankruptcy in mid-November.

While the cuts were painful in the country that is heading for its sixth year of recession, some Greeks noted that there may not be a better solution.

"We are in a state of compromise and we must bear the austerity measures as there is no turning back from the memorandum," Mary Stirgepoulou, an 18-year-old university student said.

"The main opposition criticises everything that is happening, it is just that I don't believe there is another solution. It would require a great effort for the measures to be overthrown."

Yannis Levas, 34, who works in a recruitment company aimed at finding jobs for Greeks abroad, called the measures "a double-edged sword".

"On the one side they must not go through, on the other they must. There is always that dilemma if we will return or not to the drachma," he said.


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