Nationwide Greek worker’s union strike fuels fiery clashes

Greek workers walked off the job across the country Wednesday for an anti-austerity general strike that was disrupting public and private sector services across the country.

Workers’ unions called the strike to protest new belt-tightening measures that to be imposed beyond the end of Greece’s third bailout next year. The left-led coalition government agreed to the reforms as part of a deal with the country’s international creditors to release funds from its next bailout installment.

Without the cash, Greece would once more struggle to meet a spike in debt repayments due this summer.

Public hospitals were functioning with emergency staff only, while public transport was disrupted. Air traffic controllers were holding a four-hour work stoppage in the middle of the day, leading to the rescheduling or cancellation of more than 150 flights.

Seamen were participating with a four-day strike that began Tuesday, leaving ferries servicing the Greek islands and mainland tied up in port until Friday night. Demonstrations were planned in Athens later Wednesday morning, although heavy rainfall was expected to affect attendance.

“No to the new looting of salaries and pensions,” civil servants union ADEDY said.

In parliament, lawmakers were debating the measures ahead of a vote scheduled for midnight Thursday. The reforms will include additional pension cuts in 2019 and higher income tax from 2020.

Unions and the opposition have compared the measures to those of a fourth bailout, but without the corresponding relief of funds from international creditors. The government, which originally came to power in 2015 promising to repeal previous bailout austerity measures, has vehemently rejected the accusation, emphasizing that it will also take other measures to relieve poverty.

Struggling through a deep financial crisis, Greece is currently in its third international bailout, which is due to end in mid-2018. It has been dependent on rescue loans from its creditors — mainly other European countries that use the euro, and the International Monetary Fund — since its first bailout in 2010.

In return for the funds, successive governments have had to impose repeated waves of reforms, which have included steep tax hikes and salary and pension cuts.

While the country’s finances have improved under the bailouts and the strict supervision they imposed, the belt-tightening has led to spiralling poverty and unemployment rates. The jobless rate, while down from highs of above 27 percent, hovers at around 23 percent. (AP)

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Nationwide Greek worker’s union strike fuels fiery clashes

Riot police officers try to avoid a patrol bomb thrown by protester during a nationwide general strike demonstration. in Athens Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Greek workers walked off the job across the country Wednesday for an anti-austerity general strike that was disrupting public and private sector services across the country. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Nationwide Greek worker’s union strike fuels fiery clashes

Protesters chant slogans as they take part in an anti-government rally during a 24-hour labour strike in Athens, Greece, on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Greeces economy returned to recession in the first quarter as delays in concluding talks between the government and its creditors raised the specter of another debt drama. (Yorgos Karahalis/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Nationwide Greek worker’s union strike fuels fiery clashes

A protester attacks with a hammer to a riot police officer during clashes at a nationwide general strike demonstration, in Athens Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Greek workers walked off the job across the country Wednesday for an anti-austerity general strike that was disrupting public and private sector services across the country. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Nationwide Greek worker’s union strike fuels fiery clashes

Protesters chant slogans during a nationwide general strike in central Athens Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Greek workers walked off the job across the country Wednesday for an anti-austerity general strike that was disrupting public and private sector services across the country. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Nationwide Greek worker’s union strike fuels fiery clashes

Ferries are docked at the Athens’ port of Piraeus during a nationwide general strike on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Workers are protesting a new deal with Greece’s international creditors that impose a raft of new tax hikes and spending cuts beyond the end of the country’s third bailout in 2018. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Nationwide Greek worker’s union strike fuels fiery clashes

Protester of the Communist-affiliated union PAME chant slogans during a nationwide general strike in Athens Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Greek workers walked off the job across the country Wednesday for an anti-austerity general strike that was disrupting public and private sector services across the country. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Nationwide Greek worker’s union strike fuels fiery clashes

Riot police walk next to flames from a petrol bomb during a 24-hour general strike against the latest round of austerity in Athens, Greece, May 17, 2017. (Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters)

Nationwide Greek worker’s union strike fuels fiery clashes

Demonstrators confront riot police during a 24-hour general strike against the latest round of austerity in Athens, Greece, May 17, 2017. (Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters)

Nationwide Greek worker’s union strike fuels fiery clashes

Labour unions demonstrate during a 24-hour general strike in Athens, Greece, May 17, 2017. Thousands of people demonstrate against new austerity measures in a 24-hour general strike that shut down public sector. (Giorgos Georgiou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Nationwide Greek worker’s union strike fuels fiery clashes

Protesters aim with a flare gun to the riot police during clashes at a nationwide general strike demonstration, in Athens, Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Greek workers walked off the job across the country Wednesday for an anti-austerity general strike that was disrupting public and private sector services across the country. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Nationwide Greek worker’s union strike fuels fiery clashes

A padlock and chain hang across the entrance doors to a closed Hellenic Post SA post office during a 24-hour labour strike in Athens, Greece, on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Greeces economy returned to recession in the first quarter as delays in concluding talks between the government and its creditors raised the specter of another debt drama. (Yorgos Karahalis/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Nationwide Greek worker’s union strike fuels fiery clashes

Protesters stand on the stairs leading to the parliament as riot police block the way, during a demonstration marking a 24-hour general strike against the latest round of austerity Greece has agreed with its lenders, in Athens, Greece, May 17, 2017. (Costas Baltas/Reuters)

Nationwide Greek worker’s union strike fuels fiery clashes

Demonstrators shouts slogans during a demonstration marking a 24-hour general strike against the latest round of austerity in Athens, Greece, May 17, 2017. The banner reads “Subversion”. (Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters)

Nationwide Greek worker’s union strike fuels fiery clashes

A protester reacts as minor clashes with police break out during an anti-austerity demonstration in central Athens, Greece on May 17, 2016. Greek labor unions called for a 24-hour general strike against austerity cuts debated in Parliament. (Gerasimos Koilakos/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Nationwide Greek worker’s union strike fuels fiery clashes

Protesters chant slogans as they take part in an anti-government rally during a 24-hour labour strike in Athens, Greece, on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Greeces economy returned to recession in the first quarter as delays in concluding talks between the government and its creditors raised the specter of another debt drama. (Yorgos Karahalis/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Nationwide Greek worker’s union strike fuels fiery clashes

A protester attacks with a hammer to a riot police officer during clashes at a nationwide general strike demonstration, in Athens Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Greek workers walked off the job across the country Wednesday for an anti-austerity general strike that was disrupting public and private sector services across the country. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

Nationwide Greek worker’s union strike fuels fiery clashes

Signs informing passengers about work stoppages hang from a cordon at a metro station in Athens, Greece, on Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Greeces economy returned to recession in the first quarter as delays in concluding talks between the government and its creditors raised the specter of another debt drama. (Yorgos Karahalis/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Nationwide Greek worker’s union strike fuels fiery clashes

Labour unions demonstrate during a 24-hour general strike in Athens, Greece, May 17, 2017. Thousands of people demonstrate against new austerity measures in a 24-hour general strike that shut down public sector. (Giorgos Georgiou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Nationwide Greek worker’s union strike fuels fiery clashes

A protester walks among smoke from a tear gas thrown by riot police during clashes at a nationwide general strike demonstration, in Athens Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Greek workers walked off the job across the country Wednesday for an anti-austerity general strike that was disrupting public and private sector services across the country. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)