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  • Members of the communist-affiliated PAME union shout slogans during a 48-hour general strike against tax and pension reforms in Athens, Greece, May 6, 2016.

    Members of the communist-affiliated PAME union shout slogans during a 48-hour general strike against tax and pension reforms in Athens, Greece, May 6, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

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The strike was called on by major unions in the country in order to protest new tax hikes and pension cuts as part of a bailout deal with creditors.

Greeks started a three-day nationwide strike Friday in anger at tax and pension reforms pursued by the indebted nation to qualify for more of a multi-billion euro bailout it signed up to last year.

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Called by the largest private and public sector unions, the strike left ships docked at port, disrupted public transport and kept civil servants and journalists off the job.

Greece's largest labor union, the private sector GSEE, said the reforms, now pending approval in parliament, were the "last nail on the coffin" for workers and pensioners who have sacrificed enough after six years of austerity.

"They are trying to prove to the Eurogroup that they are good students but they are destroying Greece's social security system," a GSEE official said, referring to euro zone finance ministers who are due to meet on Monday.

The proposed legislation, due to be voted on in the Greek parliament Sunday, would raise social security contributions, increase income tax for high earners and introduce a new national pension.

The measures would also gradually phase out a top-up pension for low income earners. After years of harsh austerity, Greeks fear that the new reforms will push the country further to the brink.

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"We don't have food to eat and nobody asks us how we are," shopkeeper Anna Papadopoulou, told Reuters Friday. Asked what she wanted to tell the Greek government, she said: "Wake up. We are dying."

Train services across the country were halted, and ferries linking mainland Greece to the islands remained anchored in port. The strike by the powerful PNO seafarers union's strike is set to last until Tuesday morning.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras came to power in January last year running on an anti-austerity platform that saw many in Greece supporting his new and young Syriza party.

However, European leaders and international creditors placed pressure on his government to continue austerity and accept a third bailout deal in order to make payments to the International Monetary Fund and the European Central bank, due in July this year.

After signing the deal, many within his party abandoned him, forcing him to face a no-confidence vote which he avoided by resigning. He ran again in snap elections in September and his party won again.

Prime Minister Tsipras has a thin majority with 153 lawmakers in a 300-seat parliament. Athens hope the new measures would convince creditors to release a tranche of about 5 billion euros.


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