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Greek public sector workers strike against austerity

Greek public sector workers have begun a strike to protest against new austerity measures and planned layoffs. The 24-hour strike has disrupted local transport, grounded flights and shut down schools and offices.

Greek workers walked off the job on Wednesday to protest against wage cuts and tax hikes. The new austerity measures are demanded by Greece's international lenders in order to qualify for bailout loans.

The measures include earmarking 27,000 public sector jobs for eventual dismissal.

The walkout was called by the ADEDY union which represents about half a million public sector workers - about a quarter of the country's workforce.

"We demand that the government change these unjust policies that hurt workers and kill the public sector," said ADEDY chief Costas Tsikrikas. "We expect a large turnout in the strike."

"We want measures that create growth and boost employment, we want the government to crack down on tax evasion instead," Tsikrikas said. "We will keep protesting."

Thousands of teachers, doctors and municipal workers were expected to rally in the streets of Athens around midday and march to the administrative reform ministry.

Police deployed about 2,000 officers in Athens in response to the protests, but police officials said they did not expect violence.

Greece's other major union, the private sector union GSEE, announced it would hold a three-hour stoppage in work to join the march to the administrative reform ministry. The Communist-affiliated PAME group was expected to hold a separate rally.

Train workers also started a 48-hour strike against plans to privatize Greece's railway company. Public transportation workers are scheduled to walk off the job for several hours on Wednesday and have planned a 24-hour strike on Thursday.

Heading into its sixth year of recession, Greece's unemployment rate has topped 26 percent.

hc/mz (Reuters, AP)