Public services in Greece are expected to grind to a halt on Thursday as thousands of workers embark on a 24—hour strike in response to a scheduled parliamentary vote on unpopular pension and labour reforms.
The planned strike is the sixth major protest since Athens unveiled austerity measures to battle its budget—deficit crisis.
All flights to and from the country are to be grounded for at least four hours as of 10am (0800 GMT) on Thursday as air—traffic controllers join the protest, demanding the payment of outstanding wages.
The country’s two main airlines, Olympic Air and Aegean said a total of 34 flights had been cancelled and another 45 rescheduled.
Public transport will also be paralysed in cities across the country while employees in government ministries, tax offices, municipal offices, banks and courts are among those set to participate in the strike against austerity measures.
Tourists planning to travel to the Greek islands are likely to face a day of frustration as seamen join the walkout, blocking access to ferries in Pireaus.
With journalists also expected to join the strike, a virtual news blackout is anticipated while hospitals will operate on emergency staff.
Parliament is set to approve changes to the Greek pension system, which will reduce benefits and state spending, just as thousands will take to the streets in a protest rally through Athens and the northern port city of Thessaloniki.
Workers from the leftist party Synasprismos hung a huge banner from the side of Lycavettos Mountain in central Athens early Wednesday that read “It will not pass!!” in both Greek and Spanish ahead of the parliamentary vote.
The changes, required by the European Union and International Monetary Fund in return for 110 billion euros (140 billion dollar) in emergency loans, are needed to help Greece narrow what has become the European Union’s second biggest budget deficit.
According to opinion polls, a large majority of Greeks oppose the pension reform, which will cut benefits, increase the number of contribution years, raise women’s retirement age from 60 to 65 and curb widespread early retirement.
Analysts question whether Athens will be able to enforce the tough measures because it has the potential of unleashing large—scale social unrest — more so than any other austerity decision.
Its success will depend on whether the government can maintain a tough stance on implementing all areas of the reform bill, which is likely to become more difficult as unemployment rises and the country falls deeper into recession, analysts say.
The ruling Socialist government has 157 of the 300 seats in parliament, making it likely that the reforms will pass despite criticism.