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General strike brings Greece to a halt

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Labor unions have launched a full-day strike over a new raft of austerity measures. Workers worry that they are being forced to accept salary cuts from creditors without receiving more bailout funds in return.

Greek workers began a 24-hour general strike on Wednesday over a new round of austerity measures insisted upon by the heavily indebted countrys creditors. Travel was disrupted and hospitals were working with emergency staff only as the labor unions decried cuts to salaries and pensions.

More than 150 flights were grounded in the middle of the day as air-traffic controllers joined in the strike for four hours.

The austerity measures are part of an agreement made between the left-wing government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the countrys creditors, mainly the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to receive badly needed cash in order to avoid bankruptcy.

The regulations are set to be voted on in parliament on Thursday. Merkel, Tspiras talk debt relief While many Greeks have swallowed the bitter pills of previous austerity measures, what incensed the striking workers on Wednesday was news that many of the cost-cutting rules will be extended beyond the terms of the countrys most recent rescue package. In their eyes, this was tantamount to a fourth bailout without receiving any new funds to help the struggling economy.

"No to the new looting of salaries and pensions," the civil servants union ADEDY said in a statement.

On top of the general strike, mariners were in the midst of a four-day walkout, shutting down ferry services between Greeces many islands and the mainland.

Also on Wednesday, Tsipras spoke via telephone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss the Athens financial situation. According to Tspiras cabinet, the two leaders agreed that an upcoming meeting of the Eurogroup, the countries that use the common euro currency, on May 22 would be dedicated to resolving Greeces debt crisis.

es/sms (AP, AFP, dpa)
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