Greek Strike to Halt Flights, Services

y1993659179510402The walkout will be the second nationwide protest against the conservative government since the police shooting of a teenager in December.

Flights to and from Greece will be grounded for several hours on Thursday and banks, schools and transport will shut down during a one-day nationwide strike in protest against job cuts and low salaries.

The walkout will be the second nationwide protest against the conservative government since the police shooting of a teenager in December triggered the worst riots in decades, fuelled by the country’s sharp economic downturn.

“Workers feel anger and rage because their living standards have dropped. They feel insecure, wondering if they will have jobs,” said Stathis Anestis, a spokesman for the private sector union federation GSEE.

The strike, which will also affect ministries, was called by public and private unions representing about half of the country’s 5 million workforce.

Air-traffic controllers will walk off the job for four hours from 12-4 p.m. (0900-1300 GMT), suspending all but emergency flights.

State carrier Olympic has cancelled 140 domestic and international flights and has rescheduled 10 flights to and from London, Brussels, Paris, New York and Tirana, while its rival Aegean Airlines has cancelled 50 domestic flights.

Hospitals will operate with emergency staff, while print and broadcast media will close for the day and state-owned power utilities will shut their client services departments.

Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s government launched a 28-billion-euros ($37-billion) bank support package in January but a huge debt and fiscal problems have prevented the ruling conservatives from giving substantial relief to the poor.

The government, which has a one-seat parliamentary majority, has been rocked by scandals, and Greece is witnessing almost daily attacks from anarchist and leftist groups, including home-made bomb and arson attacks on government buildings and businesses.

The country has announced a public sector wage freeze and one-off taxes on those making over 60,000 euros a year in an effort to shore up its budget.

“The government’s responsibility is huge. Not only does it not help, but it has taken measures that will squeeze incomes,” GSEE’s Anestis told Reuters.

One in five Greeks earn less than 5,000 euros a year, according to government figures. Labour unions said about 4,000 people in Greece lost their job in March, and the prospect of further job cuts could drag more of the 11 million population into poverty.

After years of 4 percent annual growth, the EU has forecast the Greek economy would expand by 0.2 percent in 2009 and some international organisations predict negative growth.

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