, ATHENS, April 2 – Strikers brought most of Greece to a halt on Thursday with a 24-hour stoppage in protest at government policies that paralysed air and sea travel and other public transport.
Airlines Olympic and Aegean cancelled some 100 flights, including a dozen to international destinations, and 35 others were delayed. Foreign companies altered their schedules because of a four-hour walkout by air traffic controllers.
All boat links with the Greek islands were also suspended for 24 hours, while rail traffic and urban transport was limited to services allowing strikers to reach rallying-points for demonstrations.
Media workers also struck, leaving the country without television and radio news bulletins, while the national news agency was silent and newspapers will not appear on Friday.
Public administrations and schools were closed.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators rallied in major cities. In Athens, about 10,000 took to the streets behind union banners saying "We did not cause the crisis, we\’re not going to pay for it".
Shouting "No to austerity, inflation and unemployment", "We don\’t share your profits, we won\’t share your losses", demonstrators marched to the headquarters of the employers federation and parliament.
In Greece\’s second largest city Thessaloniki about 8,000 people joined a protest march.
The strike has been organised by two of the country\’s biggest union organisations, which have some 800,000 members between them.
They are protesting against job losses, the relaxation of employment regulations and plans to modify the rights of women in the civil service.
The conservative government last month froze civil servants\’ salaries and imposed a special tax for those making more than 60,000 euros a year to bring down the deficit and public debt.
But GSEE union chief Yannis Panagopoulos said in a statement: "Through this strike, workers are reacting to government policies, they are reacting to illegal and abusive behaviour by business leaders who are taking on workers through lay-offs and pay cuts."