PAME unionists block Piraeus port

Members of the Communist Party-affiliated union PAME blocked travelers from boarding ships at Greece’s largest port on Tuesday, stranding tourist ferries as part of protests against government efforts to pass a fresh package of belt-tightening measures demanded by its foreign creditors.

The unionists, who on Monday morning placed a huge protest banner atop the Acropolis, blocked tourists in Piraeus port from walking up the gangplanks of ferries that normally head to the Greek islands. They said they would not leave the site before the end of the 48-hour general strike.

Workers across Greece were planned to walk off the job on Tuesday and Wednesday as lawmakers debate a new round of austerity reforms ? known as the midterm fiscal economic plan — which must be passed if the debt-choked country is to get crucial bailout funds.

More than 5,000 police were on duty at the center of the capital, as thousands of demonstrators staged a rally outside the Parliament.

There were traffic disruptions as buses, trolley buses, the tram, trains, the suburban railway (Proastiakos) and the Kifissia-Piraeus electric railway (ISAP) were hit by the strikes. Metro services were not affected by the action.

Air traffic controllers were to join the strike with two four-hour stoppages — from 8 a.m. to noon on Tuesday and from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Wednesday.

There are fears that the strikes will further damage Greece’s image as a tourism destination. Turnover in the Greek tourism sector, which generates some 20 percent of the country’s income, dropped by nearly 21 per cent in the first quarter of the year against the corresponding period in 2010, according to recent reports.

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