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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 February 2008, 14:53 GMT
Pension strike paralyses Greece
A passenger leaves Athens' airport after the cancellation of all the flights
All the flights to and from Greek airports have been scrapped
A 24-hour general strike in Greece against planned pension reforms has brought the country to a standstill.

All flights to and from Greek airports have been cancelled, and trains and buses are only running for a few hours. The industrial action is being organised by the country's two main labour unions.

They say the plan will raise retirement age and lead to lower pensions. The government says the reform is needed to overhaul the ailing pension system.

'Strong message'

Greek air traffic controllers joined the strike, forcing authorities to scrap all flights to and from the country's airports.

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"I have just had a wasted journey to Gatwick as all flights to Greece have been cancelled," Katy Panayiotides from Chelmsford in Britain told the BBC News website.

The strike is also severely disrupting train and ship services across the country.

Hospitals are only treating emergencies as thousands of doctors decided to back the industrial action.

News programmes have gone off the air, with journalists also joining the strike, along with engineers and lawyers.

"This protest will send a strong message to the government that they cannot push through changes that hurt our working rights," Yiannis Panagopoulos, one of the labour union leaders, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

The conservative government of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis says it wants to overhaul Greece's debt-ridden and fractured pension reform.

It plans to merge some 170 social security and pension funds into four-to-six main funds to cut administration costs, and also is also considering raising the retirement age for some jobs.

The reform would also give incentives for Greeks to continue working after retirement age, currently 65 for men and 60 for women.

SEE ALSO
Greek strike over spending cuts
11 Oct 06 |  Europe
Timeline: Greece
24 May 06 |  Country profiles



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