A general strike across Greece has seen its airspace closed to all international and domestic flights, as the country’s transport infrastructure grinds to a halt.
The 24-hour strike is the first to be called by public and private unions since the Socialist government won elections in October. The action has been prompted by anger among the six million strong workforce, aimed at austerity measures imposed on Greece by the European Union.
Greece is presently running an annual public deficit of 12.6 per cent, more than four times greater than Eurozone rules allow. In response, the national government has frozen public sector salaries, raised the average retirement age to 63 by 2015, and increased taxes on petrol, alcohol and tobacco – all in an attempt to cut the deficit.
Moves are also in place to counter the country’s black market which, according to some estimates, accounts for over 30 per cent of the country’s GDP.
Participation in the walkout will, therefore, allow Greek authorities to gauge public support for the measures – designed to ensure Greece maintains its position, not only in the Euro, but in the EU.
As a result of the industrial action Greece will be isolated from the rest of the world for 24 hours. All flights in and out of the country have been grounded, while the vast majority of rail services have also be cancelled.
Aviation across Europe has seen a series of disruptions this week.
On Monday pilots at German carrier Lufthansa – one of the biggest airlines in the world – walked out in a dispute over job security. However, staff returned to work less than 24 hours into four days of planned action.
In France air traffic controllers also walked out on Tuesday, following disagreement over implementation of the Single European Sky policy, which controllers claim will undermine their positions.