Greece: Public workers strike over new labor law

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A 24-hour strike in Greece disrupted transportation and other services as public sector workers walked off the job to protest a new labor law that lawmakers were due to vote on later Wednesday.

The strike affected all modes of public transportation, including ferries to and from the Greek islands. Organizers exempted teachers involved in university entrance exams so as not to disrupt the process for students.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Athens on Wednesday morning, while around 2,000 more marched in the capital in the afternoon. A police helicopter circled overhead.

Unions and the main opposition left-wing Syriza party say the new law will erode longstanding worker rights and legal protections, make it more difficult for strikes to be called, and threaten Greece’s eight-hour work day and maintaining Sundays as a non-work day.

The center-right government says the legislation will modernize antiquated labor laws that in some cases were written more than a century ago. It argues the law would allow for more flexibility in the working week, expand paternity rights, make it easier for employees to report workplace harassment and provide greater safeguards and rights for many workers.

The government also says the new regulations on strikes will prevent single unions from severely disrupting essential services such as garbage collection and public transportation.

With the governing New Democracy party holding a comfortable majority in the 300-member Parliament, the draft bill is expected to easily pass.

Wednesday’s strike was the second in two weeks. Public and private sector unions joined in a nationwide general strike last week, disrupting services across the country.