By NIKI KITSANTONIS AND MATTHEW SALTMARSH – New York Times
ATHENS — Public services in Greece ground to a halt, and transportation was disrupted on Tuesday as thousands of workers joined a general strike, the fifth this year, to protest deeply unpopular spending cuts that the debt-ridden government has promised its international creditors.
The country’s two main labor unions —referred to by their acronyms A.D.E.D.Y. and G.S.E.E, and representing some three million workers — vehemently oppose a draft law that aims to raise retirement ages, reduce monthly payments to pensioners and facilitate layoffs. The bill follows from the government’s decision to accept a one-year aid package in May of about $135 billion over three years from Greece’s European partners and the International Monetary Fund.
The strike action on Tuesday was timed to coincide with the start of a debate on the bill in Parliament. The debate is expected to continue until next week.
The call from unions was expected to draw thousands onto the streets of the capital. Early in the morning, hundreds of protesters carrying banners and bullhorns started congregating outside Parliament in central Athens to express their opposition to the austerity measures.