Unions in Greece began a 48-hour walk-out on Tuesday in protest against the latest raft of anti-austerity measures, due to be put before the country’s parliament on Wednesday.
Greece’s unions are holding their third general strike in six weeks in the hope of persuading politicians not to back a major new austerity program that will commit the country to further hardship.
Flights will stop between 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. (0800-1100GMT) Tuesday, at the start of a 48-hour strike that will close schools, halt train and ferry services, and keep hospitals running on emergency staff only.
Two days of demonstrations are planned to start at 11:00 a.m. (0900GMT) Tuesday, continuing until lawmakers vote late Wednesday on the bill to slash €13.5 billion ($17.3 billion) from budget spending over two years.
Police cordoned off streets around main government buildings late on Monday night in preparation for potentially violent protests.
Conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is facing strong opposition from his Socialist and left-wing lawmakers in his coalition, in the first serious crisis for his five-month-old government.
Greece’s coalition government detailed a new four-year package of austerity measures late Monday, facing down escalating protests by unions and dissent from its left-wing government partners.
The bill, to be voted in parliament late Wednesday, will impose further wage and benefit cuts on Greeks who are heading into a sixth year of recession and are already struggling with 25 percent unemployment.
The drastic spending cuts and tax hikes demanded by the country’s bailout creditors aim to save some €13.5 billion ($17.3 billion) in 2013-14, but austerity will be extended through 2016.
Other measures include a two-year increase in the retirement age to 67, a new round of tax increases, and making it easier to fire and transfer civil servants.
If lawmakers reject the measures, Greece could lose vital rescue loans that have kept it afloat since May 2010— raising the threat of bankruptcy and a euro exit.
The next loan instalment of €31.5 billion out of a total of €240 billion is already overdue and without it, conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has said Greece will run out of euros on Nov. 16.
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