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Greeks launch two days of protest against new austerity cuts

Greek paramedics and first aid workers on motorbikes and in ambulances take part in a protest against pay and funding cuts, outside the Health Ministry in Athens, on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS: Greeks opposing a new round of austerity cuts on Wednesday began a two-day round of strikes and protests timed to pressurise EU leaders ahead of a summit later this week.

Lawyers, notaries, pharmacists and doctors were told by their respective associations to walk off the job ahead of a full-blown general strike on Thursday called by the country's main unions.

Journalists also staged a one-day walkout.

After similar demonstrations in Spain, Portugal and France in recent days, Greek protesters want to send a message to the European Union that societies facing successive austerity waves to meet fiscal goals have reached their limit.

"Wage-earners and pensioners have exclusively borne the weight of the economic crisis while the tax cheats who created it are in the clear," said leading union GSEE, which represents hundreds of thousands of private sector employees.

GSEE has called its members to protest on Thursday to block "measures that wipe out both society and the economy".

Civil servants are joining the mobilisation and the association of Greek traders has also called for a general store shutdown on Thursday.

"The drastic fall in incomes, outrageous over-taxation and a major drop in demand are destroying businesses and jobs," the traders' association said.

It will be the fourth general strike this year against economic policies deemed to have caused record unemployment and the worst recession in memory.

The government intends to push through parliament next month a new package of austerity cuts originally worth 7.8 billion euros ($10.2 billion).

But this sum of savings is now expected to be revised upwards to 9.2 billion euros after tough negotiations with Greece's so-called "troika" of international creditors, the EU, IMF and the European Central Bank.

Greece needs an agreement to secure a loan slice of 31.5 billion euros from its outstanding EU-IMF bailout that is vital to keeping its economy alive.

Athens had hoped to close a deal with the troika before Thursday's EU summit but disagreement over a batch of labour reforms has rendered this all but impossible.

 

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