Austerity? Try outrage. Greek public servants find common cause

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Angry and frustrated, Greek civil servants walked off the job yesterday, paralysing the government and public transport to protest against ever-deeper austerity measures and seemingly ineffectual financial policies.

As Greece struggles to avoid a catastrophic default, demonstrators in Athens expressed outrage over their misfortune and bewilderment at a crisis that shows no signs of easing.

At least 16,000 protesters converged in central Athens, and another 10,000 gathered in the city of Thessaloniki, chanting slogans, banging drums and blowing whistles. The vast majority of demonstrators were peaceful, but a few dozen protesters near parliament threw stones at riot police, who fired tear gas. One man was seen bleeding from the head.

Greek police said 10 people were arrested and two officers were slightly injured in the clashes.

Air traffic controllers joined the 24-hour strike, grounding all flights to and from Greek airports. State hospitals were running on emergency staff, while lawyers, teachers and tax officers also didn't work. Public transport employees were holding work stoppages in the morning and evening, and state television and radio pulled news programmes off the air.

Civil servants are protesting plans to suspend about 30,000 staff on partial pay, part of new cutbacks that come on top of salary and pension cuts. Greece has also seen repeated waves of tax hikes over the past 18 months.

Greece has relied on a €110bn (£95bn) package of international bailout loans since May 2010, but it has slipped on meeting the required budget targets. The country is undergoing a deep recession, with the economy expected to contract 5.5 per cent this year. AP