Public transport grinds to halt in Greek capital

Updated: 2011-09-23 07:56

(China Daily)

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ATHENS, Greece - Austerity-weary Greeks lashed out against more tax hikes and pension cuts with a new round of strikes, with public transport workers, taxi drivers, teachers and air traffic controllers walking off the job on Thursday.

The strikes come a day after the government announced yet another round of spending cuts, including plans to suspend 30,000 civil servants as it scrambles to keep international bailout payments flowing and soothe global market fears that Greece will default.

Without continued payments from a $150 billion program of rescue loans from eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund, the heavily indebted eurozone member will run out of cash by mid-October.

Athens has lagged behind savings and revenue targets set in its bailout agreement, angering international debt inspectors who threatened to halt the loans - as the country heads for a fourth year of recession with rising unemployment levels. The inspectors are due back in Athens next week to complete a review on whether Greece has done enough to be granted the next installment of the bailout loans.

With all forms of public transport, including the metro, buses, trams, trains and taxis on strike on Thursday, Athenians struggled through traffic-clogged streets to make their way to work on what has been designated World Carfree Day. Air traffic controllers will walk off the job for three hours in the afternoon, forcing airlines to cancel or reschedule flights. Schoolteachers were also on strike for the day, and students planned a demonstration in central Athens in the early afternoon. Municipal workers were to hold a four-hour work stoppage.

Under intense pressure to prove it is serious about implementing reforms, the government on Wednesday said it would cut monthly pensions by 20 percent above a $1,636 threshold, while retirees under the age of 55 will lose 40 percent of their pensions.

Associated Press


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