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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 October, 2003, 21:17 GMT 22:17 UK
Greek strikes close Acropolis

By Richard Galpin
BBC, Athens

Tourists hoping to visit one of the world's most famous ancient sites, the Acropolis in the Greek capital Athens, were turned back at the gates on Thursday after employees went on strike.

Tourists outside the Acropolis
The action has hit at Greece's heart
It was just the latest development in a wave of industrial action which has resulted in the closure of the courts and slaughter houses, as well as disruption to universities.

The closure of the Acropolis, the most potent national symbol, epitomises the mounting economic problems facing the government.

With a general election due within the next six months, employees in many different sectors are pressing for substantial pay increases or improved conditions.

To take just one example, academic staff at universities have now been on strike for more than two weeks demanding a 20% increase in their wages.

Students are in danger of not being able to complete their courses.

Schoolteachers and hospital doctors are also planning industrial action next week, having rejected government offers which would boost their pay by up to 10%.

Election pressure

The Socialist government, which has been in power for the past 10 years, is vulnerable.

Opinion polls show it is trailing behind the conservative opposition.

Last month it heightened expectations by announcing a pre-election spending spree to boost living standards amounting to around three billion dollars.

Many observers say this was a blatant attempt to win votes.

Now the government says it cannot afford the kind of pay increases being demanded by those on strike.

As one Greek newspaper puts it, it is likely to be an October of discontent.

Athens cabbies strike on
18 Sep 03  |  Europe
Greek museum plans 'thwarted'
19 May 03  |  Europe
Country profile: Greece
17 Aug 02  |  Country profiles

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