Workers in Greece have begun a series of strikes to protest against austerity measures. The work stoppages come as the government is set to present its latest package of cuts to parliament.
Trade unions representing public transport workers and journalists were among those who called their members out on strike on Monday morning. Many who did go to work arrived late, as the subway remained closed, however buses continued to operate. Some commuters opted to take their cars, making traffic during the morning rush hour worse than usual.
The journalists' strike meant a virtual news blackout, with print, broadcast and electronic media off the job for the next 24 hours. Medical services were also disrupted with some staff failing to report for work.
The situation is expected to worsen on Tuesday, when air traffic controllers have a three-hour work stoppage scheduled. Ferry services are to be cut for a period of 48 hours and bus drivers are also expected to walk off the job.
The unions are also planning rallies for Tuesday and Wednesday to protest against the government's austerity package designed to trim 13.5 billion euros ($17.3 billion) from next year's budget.
Parliamentarians are expected to vote on the bill on Wednesday. The government desperately needs to get the legislation approved in order to unlock the latest 31.5-billion-euro tranche of an international bailout.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras defended the latest round of austerity measures, pledging these would be the last cuts to wages and pensions.
"We promised to avert the country's exit from the euro and this is what we are doing. We have given absolute priority to this because if we do not achieve this everything else will be meaningless," Samaras said.
Without the funds from the latest funds, the government has warned that it could become insolvent by the middle of November – which many believe could lead to Greece leaving the eurozone.
pfd/kms (Reuters, dpa, AFP, AP)
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