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29 Feb, 2012 06:59

Greece gears up for strike fever

Greece's major labor unions are calling for a nationwide strike and mass rally outside the country’s parliament in protest at budget cuts. Bitter new austerity measures were approved overnight to secure a €130 billion bailout.

Doctors at public hospitals are planning to stage a 24-hour strike against the proposed closure of some 50 public healthcare facilities and an impending 17 per cent cut in overtime pay for emergency duty.Earlier on Tuesday, a band of workers who one would expect to be on the government’s side, joined the protests. Police, fire fighters and coastguards took to the streets, burning a Nazi flag to show their mounting hostility to Germany, which has underwritten the bailout while insisting on tough conditions.RT's Tom Barton joined the rally in Athens. He says the law enforcers calls for proper police work rather than defending politicians. "We don't want to be using tear gas, we want to be using our handcuffs," he quotes Greece's Police Federation President as saying.Budget cuts approved overnight include lowering the minimum wage and cutting pensions, as well as reductions in health and education spending and forced mergers of state-run organizations. The private sector's minimum wage is to be reduced by 22 per cent, which will result in a general reduction in salaries and unemployment benefits. Pensions exceeding €1300 a month will also be lowered.There also will be a a 32 per cent cut for workers under the age of 25, where the rate of unemployment is nearly 50 per cent.