Greeks strike against more EU-IMF reforms
ATHENS - Agence France-Presse
Protesters shout slogans as they march towards the parliament during a general labour strike in Athens April 9, 2014. REUTERS PhotoGreek unions held a 24-hour anti-austerity strike Wednesday, shutting down ferry services to the country's world-famous islands, disrupting rail travel and closing pharmacies and several government offices.
Called by the country's main private and public unions, the first general strike of the year is to protest new labour reforms demanded by the country's EU-IMF creditors.
Ships remained anchored in the main port Piraeus near Athens, with the country's main shipping union observing the strike call.
The national railway, including Athens commuter trains, were also disrupted, though the country's airports were seeing normal service.
Protesters close to the Communist party marched in central Athens, with a separate march expected by the main ADEDY and GSEE unions.
Athens is currently in talks with the creditors over the next instalment of funding from its multi-billion-euro bailout.
Loan payments to Greece worth some 8.5 billion euros ($11.8 billion) are pending.
According to reports, the creditors are pushing for additional civil-service layoffs and changes to a 1982 law on strikes to reduce their frequency.
Hard-hit by the economic crisis, Greece is experiencing a sixth straight year of recession and has a staggering 28-percent unemployment rate.
Pharmacists have also staged walkouts over plans to allow medicine sales in retail outlets other than pharmacies.
The so-called "troika" of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund first bailed out Greece in 2010 with a programme worth 110 billion euros.
When that failed to stabilise the economy, they agreed a much tougher second rescue in 2012 worth 130 billion euros, plus a private-sector debt write-off of more than 100 billion euros.
Five general strikes were staged last year.
The new strike comes amid strong speculation that Athens will this week tap markets with a five-year bond sale, timed around a scheduled visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday.