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General strike brings Greece to a halt as unions protest austerity moves

By Elinda Labropoulou and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
updated 10:53 PM EDT, Tue July 16, 2013
A protestor holds a banner denouncing the Greek government on July 15 in Athens.
A protestor holds a banner denouncing the Greek government on July 15 in Athens.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Police: 16,000-17,000 people take part in a peaceful protest march on parliament
  • A general strike affects public transit, flights, garbage collection and hospital staffing
  • Parliament is to vote Wednesday on further austerity measures
  • Greece has to reform its public sector in order to receive international bailout funds

Athens (CNN) -- A 24-hour general strike protesting further austerity measures brought many public services in Greece to a grinding halt Tuesday.

Public transit systems, flights and garbage collection services are affected by the nationwide action -- the fourth general strike this year -- while hospitals are running on skeleton staffing.

Labor unions held a rally in central Athens Tuesday morning, followed by a march to the national parliament building.

About 16,000 to 17,000 people took part in the demonstration, which was peaceful and resulted in no arrests, Athens police spokesman Panagiotis Papapetropoulos said.

The crowds started to disperse after they reached parliament.

Greece's former finance minister should be prosecuted, lawmakers say

A rally was also held outside parliament Monday night, but it did not attract large numbers of protesters. Many people have left the capital to escape the summer heat.

The general strike takes place ahead of a vote in parliament Wednesday on a bill containing further austerity measures.

The measures include the tightening of financial control of municipalities and other local authorities, changes to municipal policing and a provision making it easier to fire people in the civil sector.

The legislation must be approved in order for Greece to receive the next package of international bailout funds.

The bill is expected to go through, as the coalition government holds a slim majority in parliament.

Greece, the first country to receive a European Union bailout more than three years ago, is struggling to bring its huge public debt under control.

The country is in its sixth straight year of recession, and unemployment stood at 26.8% as of March this year, according to official figures. The jobless rate among young people in Greece has soared to nearly 60%.

OECD jobless rates forecast to remain stubbornly high

CNN's Elinda Labropoulou reported in Athens, and Laura Smith-Spark wrote in London.

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