Strike-hit Greece heads to standstill ahead of crucial vote

By REUTERS
October 17, 2011 02:05

 
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ATHENS - Greece faces a crucial test this week with much of the country expected to be shut down by a 48 hour strike that will culminate on Thursday as parliament votes on a sweeping package of austerity measures demanded by international lenders.

Greece's two main unions, representing about half of the four million-strong workforce, have promised one of the biggest strikes since the start of the crisis two years ago, hitting food and fuel supplies, disrupting transport and leaving hospitals run by skeleton staff.

Prime Minister George Papandreou, trailing badly in opinion polls, has defied the protests, pledging to push through a deeply unpopular package that includes tax hikes, pay and pension cuts, job layoffs and changes to collective pay deals.

His four-seat majority is expected to hold up with the support of smaller opposition parties, but at least two members of the ruling PASOK party could oppose part of the bill when the vote is called, probably in two stages on Wednesday and Thursday.

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