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  • Powerful Greek Unions Lead Disruptive Strike Over Bailout Terms

    Powerful labor unions in Greece led a general strike Thursday in opposition to austerity measures meant to help the country out of its current economic plight.

    The strike is intended to disrupt hospital, public transport, air traffic and tax offices among other critical services. The two largest private and public sector unions in the country — General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) and the Civil Servants’ Confederation (ADEDY) respectively — are leading the strike.

    Some emergency services, like ambulances, have been operating with severely limited staff, and public transport, schools and museums were disrupted by the strike, reports the Lethbridge Herald. Major news outlets have agreed to only cover the protests.

    “The mass participation in the strike … will be our answer to the government’s dogmatic obsession with dead-end and catastrophic policies that have squeezed employees and driven the youth of this country to lose all hope,” GSEE said, according to The Wall Street Journal.

    The unions are also holding rallies as part of their protest. The main rally totaled 20,000 people. Some violence has already been reported. A group left the main rally to throw Molotov cocktails and rocks at police in an outbreak that lasted a few minutes before riot police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.

    The austerity measures, negotiated between international coalitions and the Greek governing party in response to years of severe economic problems, have faced significant opposition from Greek unions and many lawmakers.

    Greece passed a set of reforms in October that failed to qualify the country for the next installment of a $97.5 billion bailout program led by the European Commission, European Central Bank, European Stability Mechanism and International Monetary Fund. Left unsolved, the country’s financial troubles could have global implications.

    Global stocks fell in June following a weekend of troublesome bailout negotiations. Greek officials announced plans to close banks and impose restrictions on cash withdrawals, which resulted in slow or declining stocks in China, Germany, France Britain and Wall Street.

    Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras agreed to the latest bailout package in July with the European coalitions. In the face of international pressure, Tsipras is pursuing welfare and pension cuts among other critical reforms. Growing unemployment, early retirement, horribly run welfare programs, declining labor standards, complacent and corrupt officials and powerful unions have all been blamed for the financial problems.

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