Flights in Greece halted for 4 hours as unions hold work stoppages against government

ATHENS, Greece – Flights in Greece were halted for four hours Thursday as the country’s two largest labour unions staged work stoppages to protest austerity measures and a government decision to cancel a teachers’ strike.

Flights resumed after being grounded between 12:00 and 4:00 p.m. (0900-1300 GMT), when air traffic controllers joined the protest called by labour unions GSEE and ADEDY.

The government this week issued an emergency order to force high school teachers to work through the May 17-31 university entrance exams and cancel plans for rolling strikes. It was the third time the conservative-led government used the emergency civil mobilization order to end a strike this year.

The government is pursuing unpopular budget cuts to reduce debt as a condition of its international rescue package. It claims it will be able to return to borrowing on bond markets next year, when it also hopes the country’s crippling recession will end.

Greece’s bond market borrowing rates this week dropped to their lowest levels since 2010, when the country lost market access and was bailed out by its euro partners and the International Monetary Fund.

Interest rates on the 10-year bonds tumbled to below 9 per cent, from levels of more than 35 per cent last year.