Thousands march in Athens during national strike
Thousands of demonstrators marched through the Greek capital during a national strike on Wednesday over austerity measures as the government struggles to contain a catastrophic default, DPA reported.
Carrying black flags and yelling ant-government slogans, a total of 18,000 to 20,000 public and private sector workers plus pensioners and students in the march through central Athens, according to police figures.
"Both the government and its international financers are alienating Greece with their policies, namely salary and pension cuts as well as tax hikes which the average person can no longer afford to pay" Ilias Vretakos, the vice-presdident of public sector ADEDY told dpa.
Many of the protesters could also be seen carrying "Wanted" signs, with Prime Minister George Papandreou's face plastered on the front, claiming "For the sell-off of Greece and the embarassment and dignity of the people."
In Wednesday's first nationwide strike since the summer, government offices and public services remained shut and ferries were anchored at ports across Greece, while the walkout also halted train services, closed schools, universities and left hospitals operating with emergency staff only.
Public transport was disrupted while all flights were be cancelled at airports across the country after air traffic controllers joined the strike.
Workers are protesting salary cuts as well as tax rises and the potential reduction of the minimum wage in the private sector.
"They have cut my saraly by 400 euros," said 66-year-old retired school teacher Savvas Dimitriadis, adding that he wants teh country to default on its debt "otherwise it will never be able to stand on its own two feet."
Elsewhere around Athens, hundreds of protesters continued their blockade of six ministries response to government plans to fire tens of thousands of civil servants to meet international austerity requirements.
The government is currently winding up negotiations with auditors from the European Union, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank, known as the troika.
Its members are reviewing reforms to see if Athens qualifies to receive the next 8-billion-euro (10.7 billion dollars) instalment of its 110-billion-euro bailout.
The unions have also declared a nationwide strike on October 19.