General strike, rally to go ahead

Private and public sector unionists rejected a request from Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday to postpone a 24-hour general strike and rally today and intend to go ahead with plans to gather in front of Parliament despite fears that it might spark fresh clashes with police. «Our answer is that the strike will take place as planned,» said Stathis Anestis, a spokesman for the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE), an umbrella union that represents some 2 million workers. Civil servants’ union ADEDY is also taking part in the general strike. Karamanlis had hoped that the two unions, Greece’s largest, would postpone their rally given the tense situation in the city center. The prospects of thousands of disgruntled workers gathering outside Parliament, which was the scene of more violence yesterday, clearly carries some serious implications for security. Authorities fear that some more extreme elements may try and hijack the rally and turn it into a pitched battle with riot police who will be deployed around Parliament. The general strike had been planned and announced several weeks ago as an opportunity to specifically voice opposition to the government’s economic policies and the 2009 budget that is due to be debated in Parliament. It is feared that the gathering today will turn into a very vocal and possibly violent protest against the ruling conservatives in general. The unions have underlined that they want their rally, which is due to begin at 11 a.m., to be peaceful. The strike is expected to lead to the grounding of flights to and from Greek airports. Public transport will also be disrupted. There will be no service on the metro or Kifissia-Piraeus electric railway before 8 a.m. and after 10 p.m. During the same hours, buses and trolley buses will also not be running. Trams will not be in service before 7 a.m. and from midnight to 2 a.m. tomorrow. Trains on the national rail network and the Proastiakos suburban railway will not be running before 9 a.m., from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and from 10 p.m. onward. This timetable could be subject to change as GSEE has said it will support any railway worker who wants to strike for the whole day. Schools and universities will be closed for the day while hospitals will operate with a skeleton staff.

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