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Greece

Clashes with police as thousands join protest strike

Athens international airport, empty due to the strike
Athens international airport, empty due to the strike Reuters / John Kolesidis

Police in Athens fired tear gas and clashed with youths on the sidelines of Wednesday’s union demonstration against the Greek government’s austerity programme. A general strike has closed many services Wednesday.

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The clash began when police tried to stop 50 young demonstrators approaching a row of luxury hotels on central Syntagma Square. Other demonstrators joined the group when police tried to push them back.

Over 27,000 workers joined the Athens demonstration, with another 7,000 in the industrial town of Thessalonoki.

With public-sector union Adedy joining the GSEE federation in calling the strike, schools, government offices and courts were closed, as were historical monuments, including the Acropolis in Athens.

The trade unions "are demanding that the government in balance with its austerity programme not only protects labour rights, salaries and benefits but also insititutes development measures that will help create jobs and growth and boost the economy, rather then flatten it and depress it," reports correspondent John Psaropoulos.

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"There is common ground between the public and private sectors in the areas of protecting workers’ rights and keeping promises that have been made over the decade with regards to benefit and pensions. No one in these unions wants those rights and entitlements to be eroded."

Many Greeks fear that the austerity measures, introduced because of a debt crisis, will hit their pockets or their social services, Psaropoulos says.

"What really concerns the Greek public at the moment is the fear of further tax hikes next week with further austerity measures that may affect the broad public, possibly emergency measures should the stability plan now as it stands not do the trick and bring in enough money to reduce the deficit by four points."
 

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