Bus and train drivers in Greece started a 24-hour strike on Wednesday as the government in Athens neared a final vote on austerity measures, expected to come early Thursday morning.

At midday, several hundred people — predominantly civil servants from state organizations — gathered in front of parliament to protest against the looming cuts, chanting “thieves, thieves” and accusing politicians of having led Greece into bankruptcy.

But the turnout was far smaller than what organizers had hoped for, Greek media reported.

Legislators are considering a bill that would slash 6 billion euros (7.9 billion dollars) from the budget in an effort to bring the budget deficit down to 7.4 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).

They have been debating the measure for five days.

The ruling Socialist government is expected to be able to force through the measure, given its wide majorities in the parliament.

The cuts are required as part of a bailout agreement reached with the European Union and International Monetary Fund, necessitated after the Greek deficit spiralled to 15.4 per cent of GDP and the previous government doctored figures to hide that shortfall.

Labour stoppages to protest the cuts have laid large parts of the Greek economy lame in recent weeks. Wednesday was no exception, as Greek commuters clogged streets in an effort to get to work without public transportation operational.

The rating agency Fitch, meanwhile, threatened on Tuesday night to downgrade Greece’s credit rating to junk status. Its current BBB— rating is reportedly undergoing a review that is to be completed in January. BBB— is the lowest investment grade that Fitch awards.

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