New austerity measures spark fresh protests

Flights will be disrupted and there will be no public transport services in the capital today, as thousands of workers walk off the job in protest at a new raft of austerity measures announced by the government earlier this week. Only taxi drivers, who yesterday concluded their latest 48-hour strike, will be circulating in Athens, where at least one scheduled protest is expected to lead to traffic disruptions. A four-hour work stoppage by air-traffic controllers will result in disruptions to incoming and outgoing flights between noon and 4 p.m. Schools will remain shut, as teachers at kindergartens, primary and secondary schools stage a 24-hour strike. Meanwhile, hospitals will be operating on skeleton staff as doctors stage a four-hour work stoppage. The Communist Party-affiliated labor union PAME, which has called a 24-hour strike for today, is to lead a protest rally, due to start at central Syntagma Square at 10 a.m. Public opposition to the government’s new austerity measures was already evident yesterday as protesting workers staged rallies, some occupying government offices, prompting police to block off roads in the city center. Yesterday afternoon, thousands of members of PAME and the powerful civil servants’ union ADEDY converged in central Athens for two separate protest rallies which both ended peacefully. Earlier in the day more than 100 members of PAME had occupied the main offices of the Finance Ministry for a sit-in that lasted several hours. Some of the protesters had barred ministry employees from entering their workplace, while others climbed to the top floor of the building and scattered leaflets with messages calling on workers to «rise up» against the income cuts and tax hikes proposed in the new austerity package. A couple of blocks away, hundreds of former employees of the now defunct state-carrier Olympic Airlines staged a rally, calling on the government to sign an agreement settling the terms of their departure. On Wednesday night, hundreds of laid-off airline workers had occupied the offices of the General Accounting Office which calculates pensions for public sector workers.

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