19 Oct 2011

Greece strikes against austerity plans

A 48-hour general strike is under way in Greece causing widespread disruption. The action coincides with a vote in parliament on planned austerity measures.

Riot policemen stand guard outside Greece's central bank during a 24-hour general strike in Athens, Greece on 5 October 2011 (Getty)

All flights were cancelled in Athens’ main international airport at midnight marking the beginning of the two-day general strike.

Ferries remained docked, some petrol stations shut with kiosk owners, pharmacists and some bank workers deciding to walk off the job as well.

The strike coincides with a planned vote in parliament to pass the toughest austerity measures since Greece’s financial crisis began two years ago.

The highly unpopular new measures include tax hikes, further pension and salary cuts and the suspension of collective labour contracts.

Thirty thousand public servants will also be suspended on reduced pay as part of a staged plan to force many of them into early retirement.

The crisis has already taken a heavy toll on jobs. Greece’s bureau of statistics says 16.5 per cent of the population, about 820,000 people, are unemployed.

Read more: Wake up! Greek debt is not a bore!

A second rescue package for Greece is expected to be approved at a European Union summit this weekend.

The second bailout, worth 109bn euros, was initially agreed in July but crucial details remain to be worked out.

Greece’s embattled Socialist government needs to pass the new measures – which some of its own backbenchers have threatened to block – to receive the next 8bn instalment of the original package of international rescue loans that have been keeping it afloat since May 2010.

The government has said it will run out of cash in mid-November if the next bailout loan instalment is not forthcoming.