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Greek civil servants strike over layoffs, austerity

Greek civil servants launched a 24-hour strike on Wednesday to protest layoffs and grinding austerity policies that have slashed public services in the debt-ridden country.

ATHENS: Greek civil servants launched a 24-hour strike on Wednesday to protest layoffs and grinding austerity policies that have slashed public services in the debt-ridden country.

Central Athens was closed to traffic at midday as more than 1,000 strikers prepared to march on parliament.

It is the latest in a series of strikes to protest the planned layoffs of some 11,000 civil servants by the end of the year, in addition to 14,000 already laid off from the 650,000-strong public sector.

The job cuts were agreed with Greece's creditors, the so-called Troika of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, in exchange for massive bailouts.

Wednesday's strike comes on the eve of a visit on Thursday by top Troika officials to conduct a regular audit before approving the latest tranche of a second bailout of one billion euros (US$1.36 billion), later this month.

Greece has been accorded two bailouts conditional on the austerity measures, a first in 2010 totalling 110 billion euros, and the second in 2012 for 130 billion euros.

Despite improved public finances and an optimistic outlook for a return to growth by the end of the year after six years of recession, Greece is still staggering under a public debt of 175 per cent of gross domestic product.

Finance Minister Guikas Hardouvelis warned on Wednesday that Athens could not stop pursuing reforms despite the turnaround, while pledging to bring down Greece's massive 27 per cent jobless rate.

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