Greek civil servants on 24 hr strike; domestic and international flights canceled

Athens, Oct 7 (Calcutta Tube/DPA) Civil servants in Greece embarked on a 24-hour strike Thursday in protest over the government’s austerity programme, forcing the closure of public institutions, and the cancellation of dozens of domestic and international flights.

Schools, municipal offices and universities were shut, while hospitals were operating on emergency staffing.

Flights to and from the country were grounded for four hours as of 1200 GMT after air traffic controllers joined the strike. Greek airlines Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines cancelled 40 domestic and international flights. Other airlines were also affected, officials at Athens’ International Airport said.

More than 2,000 striking public sector workers marched to parliament in central Athens, a far cry from the tens of thousands who took to the streets in protest earlier this year because of the austerity measures.

‘We will continue our fight because we have no other choice – how can someone survive on 600 euros a month,’ said Giorgos Karayiannis, 33-year hospital employee.

Civil servants union ADEDY opposes the government’s austerity plan that has seen civil servants’ salaries slashed. Under the plan aimed at reducing Greece’s ballooning budget deficit, pensions are to be cut and consumer taxes hiked.

The union says that civil servants and government officials have lost 25 percent of their income in cuts introduced over the last 10 months.

Greece avoided bankruptcy with a $110-billion loan from the European Union and International Monetary Fund (IMF) in May, in return for Athens’ commitment to the introduction of a strict austerity programme.

Officials from the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the IMF have been monitoring its efforts. The Greek government announced Monday that it would cut next year’s budget deficit to 7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), from 13.6 in 2009.

Meanwhile, the European Commission on Wednesday said Greece’s already huge debt and deficit figures for the 2006-2009 are set to be revised upwards later this month.

Media reports Wednesday suggested the national budget deficit actually reached 15.1 percent of GDP in 2009.

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