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Greece: Public Workers Strike Over Proposed Labor Law

ATHENS — A 24-hour strike in Greece disrupted transportation and other services as public sector workers walked off the job to protest a new labor law that lawmakers plan to vote on Wednesday.

The strike affected all modes of public transportation, including ferries to and from the Greek islands. Organizers exempted teachers involved in university entrance exams so as not to disrupt the process for students. 

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Athens on Wednesday morning. More protests were scheduled for the afternoon.

Unions and the main opposition left-wing Syriza party say the new law would erode longstanding worker rights and legal protections, make it more difficult for strikes to be called, and threaten Greece's eight-hour work day and maintaining Sundays as a non-work day.

The center-right government says the legislation would modernize antiquated labor laws that in some cases were written more than a century ago. It argues the law would allow for more flexibility in the working week, expand paternity rights, make it easier for employees to report workplace harassment and provide greater safeguards and rights for many workers. 

The government also says the new regulations on strikes will prevent single unions from severely disrupting essential services such as garbage collection and public transportation. 

Among strike actions was a four-hour work stoppage called by the Athens press union ESIEA from 14:00 to 18:00 the same day, affecting news outlets except for coverage of the mobilizations.

ADEDY and GSEE also called for a new rally at 18:00 before the Parliament, where the labor bill is being voted on. Communist Party-affiliated PAME union planned to rally there as well at 17:00.

Speakers at the rally called the bill “an abomination” and said “it cannot be corrected or improved upon” and should be “placed in the garbage bin,” while participants were shouting slogans against the government and Labor Minister Kostis Hadzidakis, asking for its withdrawal.

Meanwhile, transportation schedules and disruptions are as follows:

– Metro lines 1, 2 and 3 and the tram operated from the start of schedule to 10:00 a.m. only, striking the rest of the day.

– Urban railroad trains (proastiakos) and TrainOSE intercity trains will stop operating from 12:00 noon to 16:00 in a work stoppage. This also affected intercity buses operated by TrainOSE. Trains 56 & 57 were expected to delay departure by an hour.

– Buses and trolleys will hold a work stoppage from 13:00 to 17:00. They will start withdrawing before 13:00 and normal operation is expected to be restored around 18:00 or later.

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