Greek doctors, public transport workers on strike

Last Updated: Thu, Jan 31, 2013 07:45 hrs

Public transport workers in the Greek capital walked off the job Thursday in a 24-hour strike, snarling traffic around Athens, while a doctors' strike has left hospitals functioning with emergency staff.

Athens was without buses, suburban rail and trolleys, while dock workers began a 48-hour strike that was to leave islands without ferries for two days. Hospital doctors and ambulance workers were also on strike for the day.

The civil servants' union has declared a three-hour work stoppage at all public services from noon in solidarity, which was expected to shut down post offices, tax offices and other services.

Greece has been gripped by a severe financial crisis since late 2009 and is being kept afloat by billions of euros in rescue loans from other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund. In return, the government has imposed waves of spending cuts and tax hikes, leading to severe salary and pension cuts and leaving unemployment spiraling to above 26 percent.

Workers have been protesting planned reforms to the pension and income contribution system , part of the latest spending cuts in the bailout program. Other measures that took effect this year include a 25 percent cut to the incomes of most public servants, leading to a string of new strikes and protests.

On Wednesday, protesters from a communist-backed union forced their way into the Labor Ministry, leading to the arrest of about 35 protesters and clashes with riot police who tried to repel a crowd of about 200 outside the building.

The arrested unionists were appearing in court Thursday on charges of causing damage inside the ministry, charges which they deny. A crowd of supporters gathered outside the courthouse during their hearing.

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