Greek Unions Stage Strike as Samaras Attends EU Summit
Clashes broke out in central Athens when Greeks opposed to more austerity measures staged their second general strike in three weeks as Prime Minister Antonis Samaras prepared to attend his first European Union summit.
Schools, hospitals, ferries and government services are shut while buses and trolleys are operating from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. to allow protesters to attend rallies in the Athens city center. A three-hour walkout by air traffic controllers disrupted flights around the country.
Police clashed with groups of protesters and fired tear gas in central Athens as marchers converged on parliament during the strike called by the country’s two biggest unions.
About 25,000 people took part in three different rallies in Athens, police spokesman Takis Papapetropoulos said in a phone interview.
The protests against cuts in benefits, wages and pensions that will form the bulk of an 11.5 billion-euro ($15.1 billion) package come as Greece’s creditors, known collectively as the troika, said yesterday they expect a staff-level agreement in coming days that is necessary to help unlock a 31 billion-euro aid tranche for the Mediterranean country. The government needs the funds to recapitalize its banks and pay debts.
Samaras is seeking to spread pension and wage cuts over four years rather than two to smooth the impact on an economy that’s contracted by about 20 percent since 2008.
He faces a growing revolt from his coalition partners, the socialist Pasok party and Democratic Left, as representatives of the country’s lenders press for more changes to the labor market in addition to budget cuts.
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