Strike to bring country to a halt

Public transport and state services will shut down today, while hospitals will operate on emergency staff due to a 24-hour strike launched by union groups in opposition to the government’s planned pension reforms. All forms of public transportation will stop with the exception of the metro and the Athens-Piraeus electric railway, which will operate between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and the tram, which will run from 9.30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The strike action started as of yesterday when the country’s justice system ground to a halt with lawyers and judges starting a 48-hour stoppage. The express bus service to Athens International Airport (AIA) was scheduled to stop operating as of 4.25 a.m. today with all planes at AIA having been grounded. The strike, called by the country’s two largest union groups GSEE and ADEDY, is in protest at government efforts to unify the country’s roughly 170 pension funds. Sources said the rate of worker participation in the strike action will determine the extent of the changes the government will push for in the social security system. Pension reform is seen as one of the most sensitive issues for many people, according to one senior government source. Protest marches are expected to take place in the Pedion tou Areos park and Kotzia Square, central Athens, at 11 a.m. and midday, respectively.