Greece paralysed by strike over pension, tax reforms

Greece’s public transport networks ground to a halt Friday after trade unions called for a 48-hour strike to protest controversial government plans to overhaul pensions and increase taxes, as demanded by international creditors.

No public transport service in Athens was working Friday morning as metro, tram, bus and rail workers began a strike that is set to run through Sunday, unions said.

The only mode of transport still available in the capital was taxis.

The announcement on Thursday of a general strike came after Greece’s parliament said the government’s pension and taxation reform bills would be debated and voted on this weekend.

Train services across the country were halted, and ferries linking mainland Greece to the islands remained anchored in port.

The powerful PNO seafarers union’s strike, which also began Friday, is set to last until Tuesday morning.

Intercity coach services and air travel were not affected by the strike.

The journalists’ union joined the work stoppage, leading most public and private radio and television stations to cancel their news bulletins.

Changes to Greece’s pensions system were demanded by creditors as a condition of the country’s third bailout in five years, worth 86 billion euros ($95 billion), agreed in July last year.

At least 6,000 people gathered in Athens for a protest organised by a leftist union, a police source said.

Other unions called for more protests later Friday at the iconic Syntagma square next to the Greek parliament.

The strike comes ahead of a meeting of eurozone finance ministers to discuss Greece’s bailout on Monday in Brussels.

The meeting was initially scheduled for Thursday but was cancelled amid disagreements between Athens and the International Monetary Fund, which has demanded more reforms from Greece.

Further demonstrations are expected in Athens and other cities on Sunday, coinciding with celebrations for International Workers’ Day which were postponed from May 1 owing to the timing of Orthodox Easter.

The strikes are the fourth to be called since Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s leftist government won re-election last year, after organising a referendum on the country’s bailout.

source: AFP