People participate in a general strike in Athens, Greece, on Dec. 14, 2017. Thousands of workers marched peacefully across the center of Athens on Thursday as Greece was gripped by a 24-hour nationwide general strike called by major labor unions to protest austerity. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)
by Maria Spiliopoulou
ATHENS, Dec. 14 (Xinhua)-- Thousands of workers marched peacefully across the center of Athens on Thursday as Greece was gripped by a 24-hour nationwide general strike called by major labor unions to protest austerity.
"Resist" read banners held by protesters who denounced the dozen rounds of salary cuts and tax hikes introduced since 2010 under bailout deals as well as the planned policies, as MPs debated the 2018 state budget. A vote in the plenary has been scheduled for next Tuesday.
About 20,000 strikers joined the main rally in front of the parliament building on Thursday, according to police estimates.
Despite the recent positive indexes on the course of Greek economy after seven years of debt crisis, workers protest that daily life is still hard.
Unemployment rates have declined to about 21 percent, according to the latest official data, but still due to over taxation and slashed pensions and wages, the average household struggles to make ends meet.
Greece's third bailout expires in mid- 2018 and the debt-laden country is expected to return to international markets, but strikers protested against widening inequalities, job insecurity and auctions of assets of debt-ridden households.
Throughout Greece public services were paralyzed by the strike action called by the umbrella unions of civil servants ADEDY and private sector employees GSEE.
Schools and courts remained closed, hospitals ran on emergency personnel and mass transportation services were disrupted.
Ships remained docked at ports and domestic flights were cancelled, while Greek media suffered a news blackout as journalists also joined the walkout.