Greek unions protest austerity package

A riot police officer is engulfed by petrol bomb flames thrown by protesters in front of the parliament during clashes in Athens, Wednesday Nov. 7, 2012. Greece’s fragile coalition government faces its toughest test so far when lawmakers vote later Wednesday on new painful austerity measures demanded to keep the country afloat, on the second day of a nationwide general strike. The 13.5 billion euro ($17.3 billion) package is expected to scrape through Parliament, following a hasty one-day debate. But potential defections could severely weaken the conservative-led coalition formed in June with the intention of keeping Greece in the euro. (AP Photo/Dimitri Messinis)

ATHENS, Greece, Nov. 7 (UPI) — ATHENS, Greece, Nov. 7 (UPI) — Thousands of Greeks joined protests Wednesday afternoon against a new package of cuts set for a vote in Parliament.

An estimated 70,000 people rallied at the Parliament Building in Syntagma Square in Athens, CNN reported. There were smaller demonstrations elsewhere.Melina Grigoriadou, who works for an export company, said pay cuts and higher taxes have already cost her family about one-third of their income.

“The measures just never stop. Every time, politicians say they are going to be the last measures … they are never the last,” Grigoriadou told CNN at a demonstration in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city. “There is no end in this, there’s no solution. The measures are awful — it’s not austerity, it’s something even worse.”

Unions held a second day of strikes, disrupting public transportation and other services in the country. Some mass transit resumed Wednesday in Athens so protesters could get to Syntagma Square.

The strikes were called as Parliament gets ready to consider a bill that would institute a series of painful social and financial reforms, ekathimerini.com reported.

The 48-hour strike has severely affected life around Athens. Suburban rail services, buses, trolleys and ferries were not running Wednesday, while taxis were operating a rolling strike for a third day. Airlines were modifying flight schedules in anticipation of a 4-hour strike by air traffic controllers.

Pharmacies were closed, and hospitals were operating with few staff.

Members of Parliament were expected to vote around midnight Wednesday on a package of bills that set out a number of structural reforms and $17.3 billion in fiscal measures that would be put in place over the next two years.

The bills affect everything from how much public employees are paid to what products supermarkets can sell. More than 25,000 public employees could lose their jobs.

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