Workers to strike over pensions

A new general strike today, which has been organized by labor unions protesting unpopular pension reforms being debated in Parliament, will disrupt public services and transport although most flights will run as scheduled. Public services and schools will remain closed and hospitals will operate on skeleton staff but public transport will not be paralyzed. Air-traffic controllers said they would not join the action to curb losses to Greece’s tourism sector. As a result, international flights will not be canceled, although there may be some delays. Walkouts by other airport staff are expected to disrupt a number of domestic flights. There will be no railway service as staff of the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) join the 24-hour action. As for public transport in Attica, services will be limited. The Athens tram, metro and the Piraeus-Kifissia urban electric railway (ISAP) will operate between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., buses will run between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. and trolley buses will operate between 7.30 a.m. and 10 p.m. Two protest rallies due to begin at a 11 a.m. – one at the Pedio tou Areos park and another in Syntagma Square – will mean most of the city center will be closed to traffic. Problems are also expected at the port of Piraeus, where members of two seamen’s unions affiliated with the Communist Party have threatened to block the ramps of ferries, preventing travelers from boarding. Last week’s blockade, organized by the same two unions to protest the government’s plans to lift cabotage restrictions, had been declared illegal and abusive by a court but police did not intervene to break up the blockade. A court also deemed today’s planned action illegal. Yesterday, the president of the Association of Greek Coastal Shipping Companies, Apostolos Ventouris, met with a Supreme Court prosecutor, whom he pressed to avert similar action today. Opposition to pension reforms, which aim to raise retirement ages and cut monthly payments, was evident yesterday as Public Power Corporation staff strung up banners over the facade of the power utility’s headquarters in central Athens and rappelled down the front of the building in a bid to attract attention to their grievances.