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Austerity strike brings Greece to a halt

A 24-hour general strike is underway in Greece by workers angry over austerity measures being implemented by the government so the country can guarantee international bailout money.

Workers from a number of professions, including civil servants, teachers, lawyers and sailors, have been called to take part in Wednesday's 24-hour strike by their labor unions. Public transportation and flights are expected to be interrupted, and journalists will also strike for part of the day.

Greece has been told by international lenders, which include the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Central Bank, that it needs to implement spending cuts worth 11.5 billion euros ($15 billion) over the next two years. If the cuts aren't made, Greece runs the risk of missing the next instalment of its bailout package and defaulting on its debt.

"Salaries, pensions and benefits have been cut again and again for 2.5 years and the 'monster' of the debt and deficits remains invincible, constantly demanding new sacrifices," the unions said in a statement.

The strikes are the third to take place this year on this scale, and the first since Greece's coalition government was created in June. The planned austerity measures have been in the works since then, and auditors from the 'troika' of the EU, ECB, and IMF have been reviewing Greece's plan to see if it meets the conditions of the bailout. The troika is expected to issue a report on Greece's budget cuts in early October.

There are fears that even if the cuts are finalized, Greece will still come up short of its debt reduction targets.

mz/jlw (Reuters, AFP, dpa)