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Europe

Flights to and from Greece grounded as country faces more strikes

Government offices were closed, hospitals worked with minimum staff and Greek airspace was shut down as Greece faced its seventh major strike against austerity measures on Thursday.

A traveler sleeps on a chair in Athens airport

More than 60 flights out of Athens were cancelled

Greek public sector workers were joined on Thursday by air traffic controllers and doctors in a nationwide strike against the labor reforms and austerity measures the government has unveiled to solve its debt crisis.

Flights to and from Greece were grounded, hospitals operated with emergency staff only and tax, municipal and judicial offices remained closed across Greece. According to officials at Athens' International Airport, more than 60 international and domestic flights were cancelled, with another 131 rescheduled. Air traffic controllers returned to the job at midday, but a backlog of flights created headaches for travelers.

Retirement reform

A piggy bank with a Greek flag nose

Greece is trying to pinch pennies wherever it can

The strikes come on the same day as a major retirement reform bill for civil servants that was passed by lawmakers in Athens. This is similar to a private sector measure implemented last week.

The public sector reform package cuts benefits, increases the number of years of pension contribution, ups the retirement age to 65 from 60 and curbs the widespread practice of early retirement. This and other measures were conditions of a bailout package from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund worth 110 billion euros ($140 billion).

The country is working to get out from under almost 300 billion euros in debt.

Private sector deal

Meanwhile, employees and unions in Greece's private sector have reached an agreement on wages and bonuses. Under the agreement, there will be no pay raises in 2010, and future pay raises in 2011 and 2012 will be tied to the eurozone's rate of inflation, which is much lower that the national rate of inflation in Greece.

Holiday bonuses have been retained under the deal, a consolation not given to public sector employees.

Author: Matt Zuvela (dpa, Reuters, AFP)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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