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Greece gears up for another week of strikes

Greece gears up for another week of strikes
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Greece is preparing for a week of strikes in protest at privatisations and austerity measures in general.

In Athens a 24-hour transport strike coincided with a rally by engineers. More than a hundred descended on the finance ministry to complain about changes to their pensions and health insurance.

Already hit by a slump in construction and pay cuts, they fear higher contributions will force people out of the profession.

Civil engineer Yannis Bournas thought the measures would lead to political upheaval.

“They may pass in parliament, but they’ll be very hard to implement. I think they’ll result in a crisis in the Greek political establishment… new parties will come to be and the ones we have now will be forgotten,” he said.

In parliament the Labour Minister Ioannis Vroutsis defended the contested reforms, which will see independent health and pension funds included in a state-run scheme.

The current system was tragic and haemorrhaged millions of euros each year, he said.

Friday’s public transport stoppage brought more traffic jams to the streets of Athens.

Bus stations were packed as metro and train drivers went on strike.

Next week public hospitals are due to operate emergency services only, amid a protest by doctors who say changes will hit the health service indiscriminately.

Much of the austerity package went before parliament on Wednesday; the rest will be considered next week.