A general strike against harsh austerity measures has begun in different parts of Greece, disrupting public transport and healthcare services.
The 24-hour strike officially started on Tuesday midnight and was staged to mark the Labor Day on May 1. Public transportation is expected to be severely affected, as ferries have been halted. The healthcare system is also affected by the event as hospitals are working on skeleton shifts. The country’s trade unions have called for the “mass mobilization” of protesters to demand an end to the austerity measures. The unions say these measures have led to record high unemployment rate of 27 percent, reaching nearly 60 percent among the country’s youth. Law enforcement officers have been put on high alert amid fears of a repeat of violence, which occurred at some previous protests. Meanwhile, the country’s government has said the measures are needed for Greece to come out of its deep financial crisis. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ cabinet says that the measures are demanded by the troika of international creditors, including the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, in order for Athens to receive more bailout money. On April 28, Greek lawmakers passed a bill that would clear the way for 15,000 civil servants to be “laid off” by the end of the next year to secure another 8.8 billion euros (USD11.5 billion) in bailout funds. The troika of international lenders has promised a loan of more than 200 billion euros for Greece.