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Greek unions in first general strike against leftist government

12 november 2015, 15:44
0

Greek unions on Thursday kicked off a general strike against fresh austerity cuts, the first under the leftist government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, AFP reports.

The 24-hour strike against tax hikes and an upcoming pensions overhaul has shut down public services, hit ship and train transport and forced the cancellation of dozens of domestic flights.

"We are fighting against government measures that perpetuate medieval labour relations ... we react to any austerity measure that downgrades our lives," said leading union GSEE.

Hospitals on Thursday will operate with just emergency staff and museums and archaeological sites are closed.

Journalists are also participating in the 24-hour walkout.

Street protests will be held in Athens from 0830 GMT.

The mobilisation was being held as senior representatives of the European Commission, the European Central Bank, the IMF and the European stability fund are holding a review of reforms pledged under the country's third bailout.

Greece in July accepted a three-year, 86-billion-euro ($93-billion) EU bailout that saved it from crashing out of the eurozone, but came with strict conditions.

Athens has since adopted a number of unpopular reforms but is now under creditor pressure to facilitate home loan foreclosures. 

The Greek government insists on maintaining a safety net for more vulnerable households.

There is also a rift over Greece's mechanism for dealing with bad loans -- an important factor in shoring up the country's beleaguered banks.

However, a senior minister said late on Wednesday that an agreement could be clinched by the end of this week.

"I believe we will have closed all the issues by Saturday," Economy Minister George Stathakis said.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' decision to accept a third EU bailout conditioned on fresh tax hikes and pay cuts caused a split in his ruling Syriza party over the summer.

While the government has pledged to apply the cuts, Syriza this week called for a "mass participation" in Thursday's strike, determined to continue the struggle against "anti-social, extreme neoliberal policies".

The paradox was quickly picked up on social media.

"I'm confused. Are we marching with Alexis to topple Tsipras, or with Tsipras to topple Alexis?" said one user.

Tsipras has called the bailout agreement a "painful compromise" and a "tactical retreat" that enabled the country to avoid bankruptcy and stay in the euro.


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