Greek civil servants strike again over cuts

Greek civil servants went on strike again today, paralysing the government and public transport in protest at 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 northern city of Thessaloniki, chanting slogans, banging drums and blowing whistles.



Most were peaceful, but a few dozen near parliament threw stones at riot police, who fired tear gas.



Air traffic controllers joined the 24-hour strike, grounding all flights. State hospitals were running on emergency staff, while lawyers, teachers and tax officers also walked out. Public transport employees were holding stoppages in the morning and evening, and state television and radio pulled news programmes off the air.



Civil servants are protesting at 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 year and a half.



Greece relies on a package of international bailout loans but it has slipped on meeting budget targets required to qualify for the funds. The country is suffering through a deep recession, with the economy expected to contract 5.5% this year, and unemployment has spiralled to above 16% as businesses have closed.



Antonio Borges, the head of the IMF's Europe programme, piled pressure on Greece to take more stringent measures to get its economy back on track, saying there was no rush to take a decision on the next slice of bailout money because the country does not face a big bond repayment deadline until December.



Protesters in Athens directed anger at the foreign creditors, saying they had little hope that the hardship inflicted by austerity measures would yield benefits in the long run.



Global markets have been shaken by concerns that a messy Greek default could bring down European banks, drag other troubled eurozone countries into further financial trouble and trigger another global recession.



AP

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