Strikes bring Greece to standstill

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Strikes have brought much of Greece to a standstill with the government in disarray after backing off proposals to overhaul the nation's sagging pension system.

Strikes brought much of Greece to a standstill today with the government in disarray after backing off proposals to overhaul the nation's sagging pension system.

The 24–hour general strike, which closed down public offices, schools and the media, went ahead despite a government retreat late yesterday. Officials now say all options to reform the pension system are open for discussion.

Last week, the Socialist government outlined sweeping proposals it says are necessary to prevent many pension funds for going bankrupt. The measures include pension cuts and an increase in the minimum retirement age to 65.

Greece's powerful unions immediately rejected the steps and forced the government into an embarrassing reversal. Some critics assailed Premier Costas Simitis for caving into labor interests at a time when Greece is facing a budget crisis over funding for social programmes and rising costs for the 2004 Olympics.

The strike idled all public transportation, including island ferries, and disrupted air travel. The state carrier Olympic Airways trimmed its flights to just one per country and one for each domestic location.

Schools and government offices were closed, but many small shops were open. Journalists joined the work stoppage, forcing television and radio stations to cancel all newscasts and current affairs programmes. No newspapers will be printed tomorrow.

Even Greek Orthodox priest, who are technically civil servants, stayed away from their duties.

Comments