Saturday 20 January 2018

Greek civil servants take to streets again

GREEK civil servants are staging a 24-hour strike, paralysing the public sector in a protest against deeper austerity measures as the government struggles to avoid a catastrophic default.

Air traffic controllers joined the industrial action, grounding all flights to and from Greek airports.

State hospitals were operating with emergency staff, while lawyers, school teachers and tax officers also joined the walkout.

Public transport workers were holding work stoppages in the morning and evening, and demonstrations were planned later in the day.

Civil servants are protesting over plans to suspend about 30,000 staff on partial pay, part of new cutbacks that come on top of salary and pension cuts.

Greece is relying on a €110bn package of international bailout loans to prevent default and to pay salaries and pensions. But it has slipped on meeting budget targets required to qualify for the funds.

Its international creditors said this week that a decision on whether to give the country the critical next batch of loans, worth €8 billion, would be made some time this month - far later than the originally expected September.

While the country had said it only had funds to keep it solvent until mid-October without the next loan instalment, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said on Tuesday that Greece had enough money to pay pensions, salaries and bondholders until mid-November.

Global markets have been shaken by concerns that a messy Greek default could bring down European banks, drag other troubled eurozone countries into further financial trouble and trigger another global recession.

Mr Venizelos insisted that Greece would be able to meet its commitments and that there was no question of a default - but urged his countrymen to pay their taxes and support the government effort to ensure the situation does not deteriorate.

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