26 Sep 2012

New anti-austerity strike begins in Greece

10:19 pm on 26 September 2012

Trade unions in Greece have begun the first general strike since the country's coalition government came to power in June.

The 24-hour walkout is a protest at new planned spending cuts of €11.5 billion, which are a pre-condition of Greece receiving its next tranche of bailout funds.

Workers from a diverse range of sectors are taking part in the strike, from doctors to air traffic controllers.

Large anti-austerity demonstrations are also planned.

Thousands of police have been deployed in the centre of Athens amid fears of a repeat of the violence that has erupted in the streets in previous protests, the BBC reports.

Greece needs the next €31 billion instalment of its international bailout, but with record unemployment and a third of Greeks pushed below the poverty line, there is strong resistance to further cuts.

The government of conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is proposing to save money by slashing pensions and raising the retirement age to 67.

But it has also urged the troika representing Greece's lenders - the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund - to give it an extra two years to push the austerity programme through.