Nationwide 24-hour-strike to paralyse transport across Greece

Dec 11, 2007, 9:56 GMT

Athens – All flights are expected be grounded, ships to be docked and urban transport and public services are expected to grind to a halt across Greece when labour unions Wednesday stage a 24-hour-strike to protest proposed pension reforms.

No flights would be leaving or arriving at Athens International Airport as air-traffic controllers decided to join the action Tuesday.

State-operated Olympic Airlines joined the strike after the government said it was unlikely that it could rescue the airline from bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, ferries and boats will remain docked at ports across the country, paralysing transport to and from hundreds of Greek islands as port authorities will join the strike.

Urban transport, including bus, trolley and suburban railway services will be suspended while work stoppages have been called at the Athens Metro and Athens-Piraeus electric railway, two of the city’s vital public transport systems.

Banks are expected to be closed as will most public services, including tax and municipal offices.

Courts will not be operating as lawyers and court staff decided to call a 48-hour strike on Tuesday. Hospitals and ambulance services will be operating with skeleton staff while no lessons will be given at public schools and universities as teachers join the action.

Archaeologists operating the country’s main tourist attraction, the Acropolis, and other ancient sites across the city said they would probably shut it down for the day.

The powerful journalists’ union said that it will also launch a 24-hour nationwide strike on Tuesday, resulting in a nationwide news blackout.

The journalists’ strike will disrupt newspaper production, public television news broadcasts and internet sites.

The country’s two largest unions, GSEE and public sector union ADEDY, which jointly represent more than 2.5 million workers, will also hold a rally in central Athens at noon.

Unions are protesting pension reform plans which they say will raise retirement ages while cutting benefits to millions of future retirees.

The strikes follow the presentation and upcoming vote of the 2008 budget to parliament, which foresees controlled public spending, a further lowering of the deficit and higher taxes.

The conservative government, under the leadership of Costas Karamanlis, is under pressure to press forward with reforms, mainly involving the country’s ailing pension system which runs the risk of going bankrupt in 20 years because of an ageing population and low birth rate.

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