A nationwide 24-hour general strike called by unions against austerity measures disrupted public services across Greece on Thursday, while thousands marched in protest in central Athens.
The strike affected public transport services and state-run schools, halted ferries and national rail services, and left public hospitals running with emergency staff. More than 7,000 people were attending three separate demonstrations in the Greek capital.
The protests went ahead despite a decision this week by bailout lenders to grant Greece a series of short-term debt relief measures aimed at evening out the country’s repayment schedule.
Greece’ left-wing government is still negotiating a new series of cost-cutting reforms that are expected to see the removal of protection measures for private sector jobs and distressed mortgage holders. The reforms are part of requirements the country must meet to continue qualifying for emergency loans from its international bailout — the third such rescue package for Greece since 2010.
The country has been dependent on bailout funds since it became unable to borrow on the international bond market due to a deep financial crisis created by decades of poor fiscal management and overspending. In return for the cash, successive governments have had to implement sweeping reforms, including deep pension cuts and steep tax hikes. The crisis has wiped out a quarter of Greece’s economy and left unemployment hovering at above 23 percent.