ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Unions have launched another general strike against austerity measures in Greece, amid predictions unemployment in the crisis-hit country will reach 30 percent this year.
The 24-hour protest Wednesday by unions representing private and public sector workers has disrupted flights, halted ferries and crippled public services, in a renewed confrontation between labor groups and the conservative-led government over policies aimed at curbing Greece’s overspending.
State-run schools, most public transport services, and even neighborhood farmers markets also stopped running during the strike.
In Athens, up to 3,000 police officers were on duty for union-organized street rallies due to start in mid-morning.
Conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has won praise from bailout lenders for pushing through major cost-cutting measures after forming a three party coalition last June.
French President Francois Hollande was in Athens on Tuesday to express the “support of France and trust in the actions of (Greece’s) government in recent months.”
But a new round of tax increases this year and a surge in unemployment to 27 percent have angered unions, as Greeks battle a rapid increase in poverty and face a sixth year of recession.
In recent weeks, the Samaras government has twice used rare emergency powers to force an end to strikes by workers on ferry services and the Athens subway.
“The Greek people have no tolerance left,” Ilias Iliopoulos, general secretary of the civil servants union ADEDY, told the AP in an interview ahead of the strike. “For us, the time has come for a major confrontation with the government … and policies that are taking our country from bad to worse and leading people to poverty and desperation.”
Unions are also angry at a government decision to scrap collective wage agreements across the public sector as part of an overhaul of state pay scales that will usher in further salary cuts.
Unemployment is expected to reach an alarming 30 percent this year, while national output will contract a further 4.1 percent, according to a study by a government funded research agency published last week.
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