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In Athens and elsewhere, May Day rallies underway

May 1, 2013 at 8:09 AM   |   Comments

ATHENS, Greece, May 1 (UPI) -- Unions in Greece called for general strikes Wednesday over austerity budgeting that included thousands of layoffs of government workers.

It is the second general strike this year, although Greece has become familiar with strikes over the past three years to protest demands the so-called troika -- the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund -- have imposed on the country in exchange for loans totaling $317.2 million, The New York Times reported.

For unions, the first of May each year is a time for a show of political force and membership solidarity. Rallies are planned in 80 cities in Spain. Demonstrations are planned in Paris and in Portugal. In Asia, worker rallies were focused on a deadly garment factory collapse. In Turkey, although protests were banned officially, demonstrations were expected in Istanbul, the Times said.

In Greece, the government agreed this week to cut 15,000 public service jobs to receive the next installment of their international aid package. There are also 2,000 layoffs scheduled to take place before June to comply with an earlier agreement. The government has also agreed to a series of budget cuts and tax hikes and divestment of Greek assets.

Unions in Greece are calling the austerity budgeting strategy "catastrophic," the Times said. Unemployment is already above 27 percent, the highest in Europe.

Some public transpiration was running Wednesday to help workers get to rallies. Many ferries and trains were not running, however, although the airports were operating normally, the Times said.

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