ATHENS (AFP) – Thousands of civil servants protested in Greece on Tuesday at the start of a fresh strike against job cuts pushed by the government in return for international bailout loans.
At least 3,000 people demonstrated in Athens, chanting slogans against the coalition government of conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Greece's EU-IMF creditors.
Another 3,500 protesters marched in the northern city of Thessaloniki, according to police.
"You've sold islands and ports, now sell your mother and get out of here, you bastards," a crowd sang outside the administrative reform ministry, which is spearheading the civil service cuts.
"Today's strike is a struggle for life itself, for survival, for the right to the quality of life that has been taken from us," Apostolos Tsiamos, a local council employee, told AFP.
"I have lost fifty percent of my salary from 2010 to today, but what upsets me more is that I have two kids studying at university and I see no future for them," added Dimitris Perivolarakis, a school literature teacher.
One woman, a pensioner of former state carrier Olympic Airways, silently held a banner reading: "I bow and pay my respects to your remains, Greece."
The two-day strike, which follows one last week, shut down government buildings and was expected to disrupt operations at public hospitals.
School and university teachers have been on strike since September 16.
Under obligations taken in return for EU-IMF loans, Greece has pledged to axe 4,000 state jobs and redeploy 25,000 public sector workers by the end of the year.
On Monday, two of Greece's top academic institutions, the university of Athens and the Athens Polytechnic, announced a shutdown in protest at the job cuts, and said they would seek to block the measure in court.
Tuesday's strike was held as auditors from Greece's 'troika' of creditors -- the EU, IMF and European Central Bank -- conducting a scheduled inspection of progress on pledged structural reforms.
Greek fiscal performance and reforms will determine the release of a scheduled loan instalment of 1.0 billion euros ($1.4 billion) from the country's EU-IMF bailout.
According to reports, the troika wants to Greece to speed up its privatisation programme, which has made scant progress since its launch in 2010.
Three top executives of Greece's state privatisation agency have quit since last year, and the government has scaled back the expected revenues from its privatisation drive for this year to 1.6 billion euros from 2.6 billion euros earlier forecasted.
Greece has received two EU-IMF aid packages worth 240 billion euros since 2010 in a bailout plan that will wind down next year.
But there is now widespread acceptance that it will need a third rescue package, with the country thought to be facing a financing shortfall of 10 billion euros ($13.5 billion).