Members of the Communist-affiliated PAME labor union gather during a rally in Athens, Wednesday, May 30, 2018. Greece's largest labor unions are staging a general strike against plans to extend austerity measures, in a 24-hour protest that halted ferry services to the islands, and disrupted flights, public transport and other services. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Greek workers join general strike as end of bailout looms

May 30, 2018 - 4:25 am
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ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A general strike in Greece against plans to extend austerity measures has halted ferry services to the islands, and disrupted flights, public transport and other services Wednesday.

The 24-hour strike called by the country's largest unions also closed schools and left public hospitals running on emergency staff.

Government budget austerity measures are due to continue for at least two more years after the international bailout ends in August, starting with another major round of pension cuts next January.

Thousands of protesters gathered in central Athens and the country's second largest city of Thessaloniki. In the capital, more than 8,000 people marched through the streets in separate demonstrations, while about 3,000 more protested in Thessaloniki.

"The government is continuing disastrous policies for society and the economy, forcing unsustainable measures onto the backs of wage-earners and retired people," the country's largest union, the GSEE, said.

"The constant deterioration in the living standards is part of a downward trend that people (in government) chose not to see," the union said.

Greece is currently negotiating the terms of its bailout exit with European creditors, including how its finances will be monitored and the conditions of a promised debt relief package. But the talks, due to be concluded in a few weeks, have been overshadowed by the political crisis in Italy and the resulting financial turmoil.

Eurozone member Greece has relied on money from three consecutive bailouts since losing market access in 2010. The rescue loans have been provided by other EU countries that use the euro as their currency and the International Monetary Fund, though the IMF has held off on a cash contribution toward Greece latest program.

A new round of administrative and market reforms demanded by creditors is due to be voted on in parliament on June 14.

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