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Strikes pause in Greece, more protests planned

Elena Becatoros, Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Protesters from a Communist-back labor union forced their way into a government building Wednesday, and clashed with police who used tear gas to expel them.

At least one person was taken to a hospital after scuffles took place inside and in front of the Labor Ministry building in central Athens. At least 20 protesters were detained.

Members of the union are protesting planned reforms to the country's pension and income contribution system — part of ongoing austerity cuts demanded by Greece's euro partners and the International Monetary Fund who are keeping the country afloat with emergency loans.

Measures that took effect this year include a new 25 percent cut from the incomes of most public servants, and have triggered fresh protests, including a 24-hour strike planned for Thursday that will disrupt public transport and other state-run service services.

Last week, the government used emergency powers to force subway workers to end rolling strikes that lasted eight days.

Striking workers at other transport services also agreed to return to work this week, under the threat of more emergency action.

The Brussels-based European Trade Union Confederation strongly condemned the action taken by the conservative-led government in Greece, noting that workers who defy civil mobilization orders face prison sentences of up to five years.

"The wheeling out of emergency powers to enforce austerity policies is unacceptable," ETUC general secretary Bernadette Segol said in a statement.