ATHENS, Greece, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- Some union workers walked off the job in Greece for a day Wednesday to protest government austerity programs and impending job cuts.
Thousands of civil servants, teachers, doctors and other workers joined a large rally in central Athens in an attempt to derail a government plan to scale back social services in the face of mounting debt and intense negotiations over a bailout with its Eurozone neighbors.
"We demand that the government change these unjust policies that hurt workers and kill the public sector," union chief Costas Tsikrikas told the Greek Reporter.
The Guardian said participation in the strike was considerably lower than past union-backed protests. The British newspaper's Athens correspondent estimated participation at about 60 percent of the union's membership, leading many to question whether pending holiday plans got in the way.
"I think people thought about their Christmas meal and what they would have on the table and didn't want to lose the money," Ilias Iliopoulos, the union's general-secretary explained. "Every time we take part in a strike we not only lose our salary for the day but have to fork out for social insurance as well."
He pledged future protests in the New Year would be better attended.
Unions representing other workers and one aligned with the Greek Communist party said they would hold solidarity strikes, as well.
Despite the labor unrest, the Greek economy was given a boost Tuesday when ratings company Standard & Poor's raised its assessment of Greek national debt six notches to its highest level since June 2011, Euronews reported. That comes partly on the strength of the nation's bond yields falling to their lowest level since March 2011, making it cheaper for the Greek treasury to borrow money to speed its recovery.