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Greeks strike as new tax, pension reforms loom

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Greeks started a 48-hour nationwide walkout on Friday in anger at tax and pension reforms pursued by the indebted nation under terms of a multi-billion euro bailout it signed up to last year.

[ATHENS] Greeks started a 48-hour nationwide walkout on Friday in anger at tax and pension reforms pursued by the indebted nation under terms of a multi-billion euro bailout it signed up to last year.

The strike called by the country's largest private and public sector unions, saw ships docked at port, disrupted public transport, journalists go on strike and government offices closed.

Greece's largest labour union, private sector union GSEE, said the reforms were the "last nail on the coffin" for workers and pensioners who have sacrificed enough after six years of austerity.

"They are trying to prove to the Eurogroup that they are good students but they are destroying Greece's social security system," a GSEE official said, referring to a meeting of euro zone finance ministers scheduled for Monday.

Athens hopes the measures, now being debated by lawmakers who are expected to put them to a vote on May 8, will help persuade creditors to approve the release of bailout cash.

A tranche of about 5 billion euros (S$7.75 billion) is outstanding after talks faltered over the pace of reforms.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, elected last year on an initial anti-austerity pledge but later forced to sign up to a third international bailout since 2010, has a thin majority with 153 lawmakers in a 300-seat parliament.

Greece needs the bailout funds to pay IMF loans, ECB bonds maturing in July and growing state arrears, subject to lenders signing off on a review in its reform progress that includes changes to its tax and pension laws.

The proposed legislation would raise social security contributions, increase income tax for high earners and introduce a new national pension.

REUTERS