Greeks strike against austerity reforms

Greek workers went on a 24-hour general strike in major anti-austerity rally.

Updated: May 20, 2010, 15:45 PM IST

Athens: Greek workers went on a 24-hour general strike on Thursday, shutting down public services and disrupting transport ahead of a large protest to test the government`s resolve to implement tough austerity reforms.

Investors will be closely watching Thursday`s march through Athens for signs of whether the momentum of anger against the government`s unpopular tax hikes, public sector wage cuts and planned pension cuts is growing or beginning to recede.

The march on Parliament, beginning around 0930 GMT (5:30 am ET), is the first major anti-austerity rally since three people died in a massive demonstration on May 05.

Workers started to gather for the rally and Athens was covered with banners with slogans like: "We`ve had enough!" and "No sacrifices for plutocracy!"

Schools were shut and hospitals operating on skeleton staff. Tourist sites such as Athens` ancient Acropolis were shut down, ships were kept in port or prevented from docking and domestic flights were disrupted.

A 50,000-strong anti-austerity march on May 05 turned violent when protesters lobbed petrol bombs at a bank in Athens killing three employees, in the worst unrest to hit Greece since riots paralyzed Athens for weeks in December 2008.

Opinion polls show most Greeks agree some reforms are necessary to stem the country`s debt crisis but they disagree with the specific measures agreed by the government and are angry because they believe the burden is being unfairly shouldered by the poor while the rich evade taxes.

Unions representing 2.5 million workers, half the country`s workforce, want the government to withdraw the "pain for gain" austerity measures agreed by the government in return for a EUR 110 billion (USD 137 billion) aid package from the EU and the IMF.

Bureau Report