Thousands join public-sector strike and protests

A demonstrator in Athens
A demonstrator in Athens Reuters

Greek airports are at a standstill, hospitals are short-staffed and ministries and kindergartens have not opened Wednesday as public-sector workers strike for 24 hours. Demonstrations against the government's austerity plans are taking place in 72 towns and cities.


"The plutocracy shouold pay for the crisis!" read banners on a thousands-strong demonstration in Athens, with other slogans targeting bankers, the country's wealthy shipowners and big business.¨

The main civil service union and the Communist-led federation called the stoppage to oppose cuts proposed by the Socialist Pasok government to reduce the 12.7 per cent deficit. They include a two-year rise in the retirement age to 63. Ministers met Wednesday to discuss raising taxes.

Prime Minister George Panadreou is in Paris Wednesday, as the German edition of the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal report plans for a German-led European rescue package.

The early departure of European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet from a meeting in Sydney to attend a European Union summit on Thursday prompted speculation that a deal is in the works. It is expected to set up a "firewall" to prevent the crisis spreading to other European countries.

World stock markets rallied on the news Wednesday and Thursday.

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