Greece is paralyzed on Thursday as workers in the public and private sector are on strike protesting the harsh austerity measures imposed by the leftist Alexis Tsipras government.

This is the first general strike during the SYRIZA-ANEL coalition government that was re-elected in September. This is also the first big challenge of a government that was elected on a promise to ease the economic burden on crisis-stricken Greeks.

Public transportation will be very limited on Thursday as only buses and trolleys will run from 9 am until 9 pm. The Athens metro, urban and national railroads, and trams are not running, while dozens of domestic flights are cancelled. Ferries and cargo ships are tied up in port.

Schools, ministries, public offices, pharmacies and many stores are closed, along with museums and archaeological sites. Hospitals are receiving emergency cases only, while journalists have also walked off the job on television, radio and newspapers.

Two major demonstrations are planned by Greece’s two largest unions, GSEE for private sector employees and ADEDY for public sector employees. Thousands are expected to join the rallies. Strikers will rally in central Athens and march by parliament to protest against austerity.

SYRIZA’s labor department has called on all workers to strike and demonstrate against the harsh neoliberal policies. Government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili denied suggestions that the leftist party was trying to play both sides in supporting the anti-austerity strike.

Tsipras has said that Athens will implement its side of the bargain with lenders, but has long maintained that the bailout terms are excessively harsh. “We are implementing an agreement which includes [bailout] measures which are unfair,” Gerovasili said.

Source: greekreporter.com, by Philip Chrysopoulos – Nov 12, 2015