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General strike shuts down Greece ahead of more austerity

Services across Greece shut down as trade unions held a 24-hour general strike

Services across Greece shut down as trade unions held a 24-hour general strike to protest against further austerity measures.

The strike disrupted public transport, halted ferry and train services, shut down courts and state schools, and left hospitals and the ambulance service functioning with emergency staff.

Dozens of flights were cancelled or rescheduled as air traffic controllers walked off the job for three hours from noon in support of the action.

More than 12,000 members of the Communist Party-affiliated Pame trade union organisation braved torrential rain in Athens to march to parliament.

A second demonstration called by the country's two biggest unions took place later.

The strike coincided with talks between the conservative government and debt inspectors from the IMF, European Central Bank and European Commission, known collectively as the troika, over what measures are needed to plug a budget gap next year.

Athens maintains the shortfall will be around €500 million (£420m) and can be plugged relatively easily, but Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras has conceded that creditors expect the gap to be five times as big.

At stake is Greece's next bailout instalment of €1 billion (£840m).

The government insists publicly that it cannot impose more across-the-board cuts on a population that has already suffered an average 40 per cent loss in disposable income since 2009 and seen unemployment reach 28 per cent.

But both the current government and its social-democratic predecessor have made such statements and then forged ahead with cuts demanded by the troika.

Successive governments have passed repeated rounds of deep spending cuts and tax rises to secure €240bn (£200) in loans to bail out the banking sector.

Laid-off Finance Ministry cleaner Evangelia Alexaki, who lost her €500-a-month job as part of the spending cuts, says she is now destitute.

"They throw us onto the streets, just like that," she said

"For us, this money was little but at least we could meet some of the family's needs. Now they're driving us into poverty."


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