New general strike hits Greece

New general strike hits Greece

ATHENS - Agence France-Presse
New general strike hits Greece

A commuter stands in front of the closed entrance of a suburban railway station during a general 24 hour labour strike in Athens November 6, 2013. REUTERS photo

A general strike hit Greece on Wednesday, paralyzing public services and disrupting transport as EU-IMF auditors worked to finalize the recession-hit country's next budget, looking to eliminate a fiscal shortfall that could bring more unpopular cuts.

The latest strike this year by the country's main unions shut down the civil service as well as train and ferry services nationwide.

Hospitals were operating on reduced staff and several flights were cancelled because of work stoppages by civil aviation staff.

Journalists also staged a five-hour walkout to 1300 GMT.

Leading union GSEE, which represents the private sector, said workers were "carrying on their struggle against pointless austerity policies".

The mission by the so-called troika of creditors -- the EU, IMF and the European Central Bank -- is expected to push for more unpopular austerity measures to cover a fiscal gap of two billion euros ($2.7 billion) forecast for 2014.

The troika's report is also necessary to unlock a vital one-billion-euro ($1.3 billion) loan instalment.
There is anger in Greece over ongoing cuts in the face of a six-year recession and soaring unemployment, and further outrage that new taxes are being prepared to help meet deficit goals.

On Tuesday, the auditors were heckled by protesters outside the finance ministry and a man was briefly detained after throwing coins at the car of the IMF mission's chief.

A sizeable number of government deputies have also protested at plans to increase tax on agricultural land, a move that has put pressure on Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

"This is a negotiation... we should remove the notion that this is a war," Samaras said in a televised interview late on Monday.