Scuffles erupt at Greek strike protest

Greek riot police have fired teargas at a group of hooded youths near the finance ministry in Athens and scuffles erupted outside parliament as protesters tried to break through a police barricade during a demonstration coinciding with a 24-hour union-led strike.

The youths who clashed with police were throwing chunks of marble prised off building facades but compared with last June’s riots the mood among protesters outside parliament seemed almost relaxed.

The strike is being organised by Greece’s two biggest trade unions to protest against fresh wage reductions and a first round of job cuts in the overstaffed public sector.

The walkout by members of Adedy, the civil service union, and General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE), an umbrella federation dominated by public sector workers, shut down flights at Athens international airport and halted train and ferry services – although the capital’s metro system was operating normally.

Workers at state-controlled companies slated for privatisation, including the state electricity utility, the lottery and the port authorities of Piraeus and Thessaloniki, also joined the strike.

The Genop-DEH union, representing workers at the electricity company – the country’s largest employer – took a leading role at the parliament protest, beating drums and chanting: ”No transfers, No sackings.”

Stelios, a sub-station manager from central Greece, who declined to give his second name, said: ”We’re expecting that management will try to cut allowances and overtime but we’re prepared – we’ve blacked out the country before.”

Some protesters held up group pictures of the socialist government – which celebrates its second anniversary in power on Wednesday – and shouted: ”Sack them, not us.”

Stathis Anestis, the Adedy spokesman, described looming job cuts as “a barbaric new policy that will only make the recession longer.”

Thousands of protesters were expected to attend a meeting in the centre of Athens followed by a march to parliament.

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