February 24, 2009 / 4:32 PM / 9 years ago

Greek strike to halt flights, affect public services

ATHENS, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Flights to and from Greece will be grounded on Wednesday when air traffic controllers walk out for three hours to join a 24-hour public sector strike in protest against pension reforms and low salaries.

The planned action affecting a range of public services deals another blow to the conservative government, which is clinging on to a one seat parliamentary majority.

Not only has the government’s popularity been hurt by a series of protests and the worst riots in decades, but it is also grappling with an economic downturn.

“We are protesting because we have problems and there is no dialogue,” said Panagiotis Hatzakis, who belongs to an air traffic controllers’ union. “We want better working conditions.”

All flights to and from Greek airports will be grounded between 0800 and 1100 GMT, except for emergency flights.

Greece’s Olympic airlines [OLY.UL] said 68 flights will be cancelled and four will be rescheduled, while private rival Aegean Airlines (AGNr.AT) said 36 flights will be cancelled and 23 others would be disrupted.

Greece’s public sector union ADEDY, which represents about 500,000 employees, called for the 24-hour nationwide strike to protest against pension reforms and to demand support measures for lower income earners, the hardest hit by the global crisis.

    Union representatives met Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Monday and vowed to continue protests if measures were not taken to help workers and pensioners.

    “We will continue with protests,” ADEDY President Spyros Papaspyros said. “All the burden is on the workers, the unemployed and the pensioners, while those who are responsible for the crisis are being protected.”

    Greece, which accounts for about 2.5 percent of the eurozone economy, is starting to feel the pinch of a slowing global economy. The government has launched a 28 billion euro bank support plan to pour funds into the slowing economy. (Reporting by Renee Maltezou)

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