General strike set for today in Greece

Associated Press / June 29, 2010

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ATHENS — Greek public services will close down today and most transport will be disrupted by a new general strike against proposed pension and labor reforms.

The debt-ridden country’s two major private and public sector unions bitterly oppose draft legislation that will increase retirement ages and make it cheaper for companies to fire workers. Parliament will start discussing the proposed reforms today. Despite opposition from several of its own lawmakers, the center-left government — which holds a seven-seat majority in the 300-member house — is expected to win the final vote.

Greece is caught in a major debt and deficit crisis. It only avoided bankruptcy last month after receiving the first installment of a $136 billion emergency loan package from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. In return, Athens passed painful austerity measures, cutting pensions and salaries and raising consumer taxes.

Today’s strike will leave state hospitals with only emergency staff. Schools, tax offices, and municipal offices will close. There will be no news broadcasts, and no newspapers will be published tomorrow as the main journalists’ union has joined the strike.