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Greek doctors, sailors and farmers rally against pension reform

Thousands of doctors, lawyers and engineers have taken to the streets of Athens to decry new income cuts, with farmers blocking the roads across the country. The reform is a precondition for more international aid.

The planned pension reform sparked protests and strikes in Athens and other Greek cities on Thursday.

At least 6,000 people - including doctors, pharmacists, notaries, lawyers and engineers – marched peacefully to the parliament building in Athens, in the event dubbed "uprising of the tie wearers" by the Greek media.

The crowd waved their neckties and chanted: "We're saying no to pension reforms."

Filling the empty coffers

The Thursday rally comes in response to the government's plan to raise pension contributions. According to the unions, the reform and the new tax hikes would force many professionals to give between 70 and 85 percent of their income to the state.

Other measures include an average 15-percent cut to new pensions.

"If this law goes through I will be forced to leave Greece and find work abroad," a 35-year old engineer named Harris told the AFP news agency at the Athens rally.

Highways blocked

The left-wing Greek government is under pressure from its

international lenders

to push ahead with the reform and unlock further bailout aid.

The plan sparked protests from all parts of society, with farmers using their tractors to block off key roads and rail traffic slowing down due to rail worker strike.

Greek ferries also stayed in port on Thursday for a second day of a sailor strike.

The unions have scheduled the third general strike for February 4, which would make it a third such walkout since December.

dj/kms (AFP, AP, dpa)

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