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Greece passes divisive public-sector reform bill

The Greek Parliament has passed an unpopular bill that paves the way for mass public-sector layoffs in order to unlock the country's next bailout loan. Ahead of the vote, the bill was met with mass protests and strikes.

The bill received the necessary majority of 151 votes in the 300-seat parliament, narrowly approving a sweeping range of reforms late Wednesday. The bill is tied to the country's next tranche of bailout loans from the European Union and International Monetary Fund (IMF) worth 6.8 billion euros (8.9 billion dollars).

The bill includes extremely unpopular plans for a transfer and layoff scheme for 25,000 public workers - mainly teachers and municipal police. Civil servants now face a so-called mobility reserve program that subjects them to involuntary transfers and possible dismissals.

Hundreds of protesters had gathered outside parliament for the vote, after a week of protests and strikes that saw thousands walk off the job in protest.

Civil servants have already been subjected to cuts in pay and pensions over the past three years. The government has also promised to cut an additional 15,000 jobs by
the end of 2014.

The crucial vote came hours ahead of a visit to Athens by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble.

hc/jm (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)

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