Public services grind to halt in Greek general strike

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Public services shut down across Greece Thursday as workers held the first general strike since the country's left-led government initially came to power in January.

Public transport was severely disrupted, with the Athens metro not running, bus and trolley routes reduced and ferries tied up in port, severing connections between islands and the mainland. The strike shut down museums, schools and pharmacies, while state hospitals were functioning with emergency staff.

More than a dozen domestic flights were canceled, while journalists also walked off the job, pulling news bulletins off the air except to report on the strike. News websites were not being updated, while no Friday newspapers were to be printed.

Two demonstrations were planned in Athens.

Workers are protesting austerity measures imposed as part of Greece's third bailout — a three-year deal under which Greece will gradually receive up to 86 billion euros in rescue loans from other EU countries in return for passing a raft of spending cuts and tax hikes.

The labor policy division of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' left-wing Syriza party has backed the strike.

Tsipras, who won re-election in September, signed up to the bailout in a dramatic policy change despite initially having campaigned vigorously against bailouts and their accompanying conditions of austerity. He has said he had no choice but to agree to the deal in order to prevent Greece from defaulting on its debts and being forced out of Europe's joint currency.

The government is currently locked in negotiations to reach an agreement on the disbursement of a 2 billion-euro installment ($2.2 billion), as well as 10 billion euros set aside for the recapitalization of its banks.