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Greek unions reject austerity with general strike

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Greek unions reject austerity with general strike


Unions in Greece started a 48-hour general strike on Tuesday to vent their anger at proposed austerity measures.

The industrial action shut down government services, disrupted public transport and delayed flights across the country.

Prime Minister George Papandreou wants to cut 28 billion euros in spending and raise 50 billion by selling state assets over the next five years.

Greece’s lenders of last resort, the EU and the IMF, insist the reforms must pass before a 12-billion-euro instalment of an international aid package is paid out.

Sixty-two-year-old pensioner Anastasios Tsochas said that austerity is not the answer to solving Greece’s economic woes.

“They are exhaustive measures that will not even prove to be effective. If they were going to be effective, maybe we would show some patience,” he said.

Papandreou proposes slashing public sector pay by up to 20 percent and state pensions by 10 percent. He also wants to hike taxes to raise extra revenue.

Protesters argue ordinary people are picking up the tab for mistakes made by politicians and those working in the financial sector.

Trade unionist Spyros Linardopoulos said: “The situation that the workers are undergoing is tragic and we are near poverty levels. The government has declared war on us and we will fight back.”

Greece is in debt by an estimated 340 billion euros and its economy is forecast to shrink by 3.5 percent this year.

Greek premier Papandreou told legislators on Monday to follow their “patriotic conscience” and back his austerity measures in Wednesday’s vote.

If the government loses and the bailout funds are withheld, Greece is expected to run out of money to pay its bills, wages and pensions by July 15th.

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