Strike action to cripple Greece

Greeks will need plenty of patience today as a 24-hour general strike called by the country’s largest union, GSEE, protesting proposed government reforms is expected to cripple public transport, disrupt flights and shut down public sector services. The metro, the Athens-Piraeus electric railway, the suburban railway and the tram will not operate today, while Athens airport schedules will likely be heavily disrupted. Many employees at private sector and state-controlled enterprises such as energy company PPC, post offices, OTE telecom and ports are also expected to participate in the strike. An amendment currently in Parliament outlining pension reforms in the banking sector has enraged union groups, with two of the largest, GSEE and the civil servants union ADEDY, joining forces to turn up the volume on their protests. ADEDY has called a three-hour work stoppage starting at 10 a.m., so its members can join a demonstration scheduled for 10.30 a.m. today at the Finance Ministry in the city center. The government hopes to push through key structural changes, including the creation of an auxiliary pension fund for bank employees and their gradual registration with the state’s main social security fund, IKA. The General Confederation of Greek Labor, GSEE, claims that this will burden IKA by 15 billion euros, trim pensions and increase the age required to qualify for retirement. «We will not allow social security to be pulled to pieces,» GSEE said yesterday. The Finance Ministry came up with the plan after six months of talks between union groups and banks on pension reforms failed to bear fruit. Strike action by Olympic Airlines employees kicked off a day earlier yesterday, when flight attendants on short-term contracts walked off the job after their demands for more permanent job contracts and increased pay were not met. Meanwhile, bank employees are continuing their protests with determination. They voted yesterday to extend their strike action until Tuesday, marking the fourth week of strikes.

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