The latest general strike against austerity in Greece saw a lower turnout than in previous rallies, blamed partly on bad weather and partly on a sense of despondency.
The strike coincides with the latest visit of international inspectors from the “troika” – the European Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank – who must approve the next instalment from the second bailout, worth about one billion euros.
Schools were shut and public transport disrupted as public and private sector workers joined the stoppage in protest at pay cuts and layoffs.
School teachers, doctors, municipal and transport workers, air traffic controllers and journalists were among those who stopped work for at least a few hours.
But amid pouring rain, plans were scaled down with two unions cancelling plans for a coordinated march to parliament.
About 15,000 protesters, mainly from the Communist group PAME and leftist parties, rallied at central Syntagma Square where police and demonstrators have clashed in the past.
They held banners reading “No more sacrifices” and chanted “Don’t bow down!”
“We’ve been under a so-called job mobility scheme since July, but they’re mocking us. We are out of work,” said one man at the protest.
“We want people to know that the government’s policies are heading nowhere except towards poverty and unemployment,” declared another.
In fact the government says it also believes austerity has reached its limits and argues the recession is nearing an end.
But it is at odds with its international lenders who fear Greece may miss its budgetary targets next year and need more cuts.
Euronews correspondent Stamatis Giannisis reported from the march in Athens: “The 24 hour strike by employees from both public and private sectors shows how Greek workers continue to resist austerity. It comes even though the government aims to end the year with a small fiscal surplus that will eventually let the country borrow on international markets again. This protest appears to mark the start of a new round of antagonism between government and trade unions.”
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