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Greeks strike over austerity

Greeks strike in protest at austerity.

Greece has been brought to a halt in a 24-hour general strike called in protest at continuing government austerity measures. Ferries stayed tied up in ports, schools were closed and public buildings remained locked as unemployment hit a record 27%. Following widespread anger over pay cuts, tax rises and pension curbs around 60,000 turned out for a protest street march through the centre of Athens.

Scuffles broke out after police fired tear gas to disperse hooded youths who started throwing rocks and petrol bombs in Athens city centre while, in Heraklion on Crete demonstrators overturned a police car.

Austerity measure have hit Greeks hard at a time when the country faces its sixth year of recession with around two thirds of people under the age of 25 now out of work.

The anti-austerity protest strike was organised by the country's two biggest unions, representing 2.5 million public and private workers.

International moneylenders have handed Greece bailout loans to prop up the country's economy but demanded tough cutbacks in spending in return.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is now under fire for backing down from plans to lay off 1,900 public workers despite calls from moneylenders to cut the 'bloated' Greek public workforce by 150,000 this year.

Greece secured a €31.5 billion bailout in December creating hopes that the economy would improve but they have had little to celebrate.

Under the terms of the deal Greece promised to cut €13.5 billion spending over the next two years, raise the retirement age from 65 to 67, cut pensions by up to 15% and reduce public sector salaries as well as other reforms.

The government has cracked down hard on protesters recently with riot police sent in to break up strikes by metro workers and seamen, but there has been little action again public employees and protesting farmers calling for tax breaks.

Greek holiday tourism is the only sector of the economy to show any growth with a 3% rise in holiday visitors last year and a projected 10% increase in holiday arrivals in 2013..

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