Unions in Greece call widespread strikes, seeking a return to bargaining rights axed during bailouts

ATHENS, Greece — Strikes called by Greece’s largest labor union halted ferries and public transport services in Athens and elsewhere Wednesday.

The General Confederation of Greek Labor, GSEE, called the strikes to press for a return of collective bargaining rights axed more than a decade ago during a severe financial crisis.

Hundreds of protesters began gathering in central Athens to attend a demonstration planned for later Wednesday.

The 24-hour strikes kept ferries at ports and disrupted other public services, leaving some state-run hospitals running on emergency staffing levels.

Greece has returned to robust economic growth and an investment-grade sovereign bond rating following a series of international bailouts and a severe recession during the 2010-18 crisis.

But unions argue that many labor rights removed as a temporary measure during the bailout-era have not been restored.

“We were told during the bailouts that the (measures) would only last for a few years until Greece gets back on its feet. That’s not what’s happening now,” GSEE leader Yiannis Panagopoulos told a news conference ahead of the strike.

“Restoring labor laws, collective and individual working rights, costs nothing. And it gives us the tools to seek fair pay.”

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