Greece grinds to a halt as unions stage 24-hour walk-out


Thousands of people marched through the Greek capital on Thursday, as unions launched nationwide industrial action to protest against the cash-strapped country’s long-running austerity programme.

Police estimates put the number of protesters in Athens at 25,000. The march was marred when a group of about 300 masked people threw rocks and incendiary devices at police, who responded with tear gas and flash grenades, ending the confrontation, witnesses said.

Other cities saw similar protests, with 9,000 taking to the streets of the port city of Thessaloniki, 3,000 in Patras and a further 3,000 on the island of Crete.

The general strike was due to last 24 hours and had already brought public transport and other services to a standstill, according to reports from GSEE, Greece’s largest union.

The strikes led to cancelled ferry, train and underground services. State-run schools and local authorities remained closed for the day, as well as many museums and archeological sites.

The stoppages added to the suffering of refugees who remained stuck on the Greek islands unable to travel further by ferry to the mainland, with 5,000 on Lesbos alone.

Public sector doctors only treated emergency cases as a result of the walkout.

Airports were affected by the strikes, with almost all inland flights grounded as a result on Thursday.

Among the strikers are journalists. A 24-hour halt on TV and radio news bulletins began at 6 am (0400 GMT).

Greece’s three major unions – ADEDY for the public sector and GSEE for the private, as well as the communist Pame union – initiated the day of strike actions.

Greece has until the end of next week to finalize reforms needed to unlock its next bailout tranche of 2 billion euros (2.15 billion dollars).