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Inflation hits fuel Greek conflict, disruption in Belgium


Athens, Greece — Thousands of protesters marched through the streets of Athens and the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki on Wednesday as a number of public and private sector workers quit their jobs for a 24-hour general strike against the government. price hikes, one of the latest moves across Europe as rising inflation squeezes consumers.

The strike has disrupted services across the country, with ferries forced at ports – cutting connections to the Greek islands – state-run schools closed, hospitals Public hospitals operate with reduced staff and most public transport comes to a standstill.

Brief clashes broke out between small groups of protesters and riot police at the end of marches in both Athens and Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city. In both places, small groups of protesters hurled Molotov cocktails and rocks at police, who responded with tear gas and stun grenades. There were no reports of casualties.

Europe has faced a series of protests and strikes over the past few months because of the rising cost of living. As Russia’s war in Ukraine has sent food and energy prices soaring, workers from nurses to pilots to railroad workers have quit, seeking wages to match rising inflation. Others have joined in by taking to the streets to pressure governments to do more to ease rising bills even as European leaders have passed energy bailouts.

Workers in Belgium also staged a nationwide strike on Wednesday as the cost of living rose, clogging traffic through much of the country and disrupting business as workers set up roads. pick-up lines at supermarkets and shopping malls.

The main unions are calling for a wage increase, which has brought most trains and public urban transport to a minimum and 60% of flights canceled at Brussels airport. The CSC union said staff at about two-thirds of hospitals in the French-speaking Wallonia region and Brussels had participated, but appointments were not urgent and operations were postponed.

In the UK, the country’s largest nurses association, the Royal College of Nurses, will announce a strike vote of hundreds of thousands of members on Wednesday. Nurses are expected to support the first nationwide strike in the union’s 106-year history.

The UK has not had a general strike in nearly a century, but labor unrest has spread across public and private sector workplaces as inflation rises above 10%. Railway workers, postal workers, lawyers, British Telecom staff, dock workers and garbage collectors all organized the walkouts.

In the Greek capital on Wednesday, no buses or trolleys were operating, while only one of three metro lines operated, running only a limited service until the afternoon.

Flight traffic control officers had to join the strike with a six-hour stoppage but had to rescind that decision late on Tuesday after a court found their participation was illegal. illegal. However, airlines have canceled dozens of flights, and all of them could not be rescheduled at the last minute.

Passengers arriving at Athens’ international airport have very limited options for getting into town, with no regular bus, taxi, metro or suburban rail services. Crowds gathered at car rental agencies, while others tried to leave on intercity buses, the only form of public transport that remained.

GSEE, a consortium of private sector unions, said: “Workers and unions are fighting against rising prices that are engulfing households in Greece,” said GSEE, a union of private sector unions, said as prices of energy and basic commodities rose.

Unions are calling for an increase in wages and the minimum wage, just over 700 euros ($) a month for salaried workers, and stronger measures to tackle inflation.

Inflation in the 19 countries that use the euro, including Greece and Belgium, hit a record 10.7% last month, largely due to higher energy prices. Inflation in Greece was slightly lower at 9.8% in October – down from 12.1% in September – and higher in Belgium at 13.1%, according to EU statistics agency Eurostat.

Belgian trade unions say gas prices have increased by 130% in just one year, electricity by 85% and fuel by 57%. Food prices also increased.

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AP reporters Costas Kantouris in Thessaloniki, Greece; Samuel Petrequin and Raf Casert in Brussels; and Jill Lawless of London contributed to this report.

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