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Greece

Greek public sector workers launch two-day strike action over austerity

Civil servants in Greece have started a 48-hour strike directed mainly at the government's continued austerity course. Employees were seen to be unwilling to accept massive layoffs as planned by Athens.

Public sector workers including hospital and teaching staff went on strike again on Wednesday to voice their anger at austerity measures imposed under the eurozone country's international bailout program.

Starting their two-day industrial action called by the ADEDY umbrella union, some 3,000 people held a peaceful demonstration in central Athens, accusing the government of taking a passive stance in its latest round of negotiations with international creditors that ended on Monday.

Government offices and schools were shut and state hospitals in Athens and Piraeus were operating on skeleton staff.

Demonstrators were particularly angry over Athens' plan to cut at least 11,000 jobs in the course of this year in a bid to save costs and reduce public deficits in line with earlier commitments.

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Greece has depended on foreign loans since mid-2010, with payment of new credit installments contingent on a number of budget targets and the implementation of structural reforms, including large-scale privatizations.

The reforms enacted so far have had the side effect of pushing the national economy deeper into recession, with unemployment hovering around a record-high 26 percent.

Unfazed by the renewed strike action, EU Currency Commissioner Olli Rehn on Wednesday praised the government for its savings course, saying Greece had "made big strides in consolidating its finances."

Rehn expected the country's public deficit to come in at 2.2 percent of GDP this year, down from a staggering 13.1 percent of total output in 2013.

hg (dpa, AP)

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