Employees take over ministry as strike begins

Thousands of Greek workers walked off the job on Friday, and government employees staged sitins at the Finance Ministry, at the launch of a two-day strike to protest austerity measures included in the bailout program agreed between government officials and foreign creditors.

The strike, the second this week, was accompanied by a protest rally which got off to a peaceful start with a relatively small crowd milling around in front of Parliament.

Across Constitution Square, Finance Ministry employees occupied the offices of the ministry to protest the new austerity bill which foresees thousands of layoffs in the civil service among other measures. A similar occupation of the Health Ministry, launched on Thursday by employees protesting health sector cutbacks, reportedly ended on Friday morning.

The strike was to disrupt transport on Friday and Saturday. Only the Kifissia-Piraeus electric railway (ISAP) was to provide a limited service — between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m ? to allow protesters to attend rallies. Taxi drivers were to work as normal.

Ferries were to remain in port but flights in and out of Greece were not expected to be affected.

As usual, government offices, schools and courts closed while museums and archaeological sites were also shut.

On Sunday, there are plans to hold a protest from 5 p.m. to coincide with a vote on the terms of the loan agreement in Parliament.

Greece?s two largest unions — GSEE, representing the private sector, and ADEDY, representing the public sector — have backed the action and professional groups, including doctors and lawyers, were to join the strike.

“The painful measures that create misery for youths, unemployed and pensioners do not leave us much room. We won’t accept them. We are moving to a social uprising,» ADEDY’s secretary general Ilias Iliopoulos told Reuters.