Greece: General strike against pension reform

Greece: General strike against pension reform

Thousands of Greek workers have joined a 24-hour strike in protest against reforms which could jeapordise pensions and jobs.

Launched by Greece's two largest unions, the strike has affected all public services, hospitals, banks, courts and airports. All flights out of Athens airport have been grounded after air traffic controllers, pilots and flight crews walked out, and ferry and metro systems across the country have been hit. No Thursday newspapers have been published, and three state-run television stations have been broadcasting nothing but text supporting the strike.

Workers are protesting attempts by the three month-old conservative government to overhaul the state pension system. Unions oppose the proposals to unify Greece's 170 state-controlled pension funds, saying the reforms could lead to jobs being lost, the retirement age increasing, and many workers losing their pensions.

The strike has been backed up by massive demonstrations across the country. Up to 80,000 people marched in Athens, with striking metro and tram workers returning to work for several hours to allow strikers to join the rally. According to police, up to 30,000 marched in Thessaloniki. Clashes between youths and police have also been reported in central Athens.

A demonstrator in Athens was quoted as saying, "All they do is take take take. They will take everything from us, force us to work from eight in the morning til midnight, like in the old days."

Further action is expected next week, with more strikes planned by hospital workers, and a further 48-hour strike expected to shut courtrooms.