Transport disruptions hit Greece as union protests cutbacks

Transport disruptions hit Greece as union protests cutbacks
A Protestor shouts slogans as takes part in a rally during a 24-hour strike in Athens, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. Unions want the left-led government to ditch key elements of the austerity packages that were imposed in waves since 2010 to balance the country's public finances, under pressure from international bailout creditors. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis) (Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Train and island ferry services in Greece were suspended Wednesday and most Athens public transport was idle as the country's biggest labor union held a strike against persisting austerity measures.

The transport shutdown prompted Athenians to drive to work, causing major traffic jams in the capital whose center was shut down by two separate strike-related protest marches.

Police said that about 7,000 people in total took part in the peaceful demonstrations to parliament.

The strike organized by the GSEE umbrella private sector union, which also includes many categories of civil servants, did not affect schools, hospitals or other core public services.

The unions want the left-led government to scrap key income and pension cuts imposed at the demand of international creditors during Greece's eight-year bailout program.

Kids stand in front of closed Metro gate during a 24-hour strike organized by GSEE, the biggest labor union representing the entire private sector and many public sector workers in Athens on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. Unions want the left-led government to ditch key elements of the austerity packages that were imposed in waves since 2010 to balance the country's public finances, under pressure from international bailout creditors. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Kids stand in front of closed Metro gate during a 24-hour strike organized by GSEE, the biggest labor union representing the entire private sector and many public sector workers in Athens on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. Unions want the left-led government to ditch key elements of the austerity packages that were imposed in waves since 2010 to balance the country's public finances, under pressure from international bailout creditors. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis) (AP)

The program formally ended in August but the measures are expected to remain in place for years to ensure Greece can keep its budgets balanced and pay off its bailout debts.

A Protestor play with a drum as takes part in a rally during a 24-hour strike in Athens, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. Unions want the left-led government to ditch key elements of the austerity packages that were imposed in waves since 2010 to balance the country's public finances, under pressure from international bailout creditors. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
A Protestor play with a drum as takes part in a rally during a 24-hour strike in Athens, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. Unions want the left-led government to ditch key elements of the austerity packages that were imposed in waves since 2010 to balance the country's public finances, under pressure from international bailout creditors. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis) (AP)

Greece was forced to request the rescue loans in 2010 when it lost access to bond markets after the revelation that it had been under-reporting key financial data for years and was running a much bigger-than-expected budget deficit.

A member of Communist-affiliated PAME labor union takes part in a rally as waves a flag during a 24-hour strike outside of the parliament in Athens, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. Unions want the left-led government to ditch key elements of the austerity packages that were imposed in waves since 2010 to balance the country's public finances, under pressure from international bailout creditors. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
A member of Communist-affiliated PAME labor union takes part in a rally as waves a flag during a 24-hour strike outside of the parliament in Athens, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. Unions want the left-led government to ditch key elements of the austerity packages that were imposed in waves since 2010 to balance the country's public finances, under pressure from international bailout creditors. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris) (AP)

Union demands include restoring the minimum monthly salary to the pre-bailout level of 751 euros ($853), from the current 580 euros ($659).

Members of Communist-affiliated PAME labor union Protesters take part in a rally during a 24-hour strike in Athens, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. Unions want the left-led government to ditch key elements of the austerity packages that were imposed in waves since 2010 to balance the country's public finances, under pressure from international bailout creditors. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
Members of Communist-affiliated PAME labor union Protesters take part in a rally during a 24-hour strike in Athens, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. Unions want the left-led government to ditch key elements of the austerity packages that were imposed in waves since 2010 to balance the country's public finances, under pressure from international bailout creditors. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris) (AP)

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' government has said it will boost welfare spending this year and next, using part of the budget surplus it expects as a result of heavy taxation and low public spending.

Members of Communist-affiliated PAME labor union Protesters take part in a rally during a 24-hour strike in Athens, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. Unions want the left-led government to ditch key elements of the austerity packages that were imposed in waves since 2010 to balance the country's public finances, under pressure from international bailout creditors. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
Members of Communist-affiliated PAME labor union Protesters take part in a rally during a 24-hour strike in Athens, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. Unions want the left-led government to ditch key elements of the austerity packages that were imposed in waves since 2010 to balance the country's public finances, under pressure from international bailout creditors. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris) (AP)

Tsipras was initially elected on pledges to scrap all creditor-mandated austerity measures, but was soon forced into a U-turn after talks with creditors tanked and Greece faced the specter of bankruptcy and exit from Europe's common euro currency.

Protesters of a labor union take part in a rally during a 24-hour strike in Athens, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. Unions want the left-led government to ditch key elements of the austerity packages that were imposed in waves since 2010 to balance the country's public finances, under pressure from international bailout creditors. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
Protesters of a labor union take part in a rally during a 24-hour strike in Athens, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. Unions want the left-led government to ditch key elements of the austerity packages that were imposed in waves since 2010 to balance the country's public finances, under pressure from international bailout creditors. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris) (AP)

Speaking in parliament Wednesday, Tsipras pledged to reduce a highly resented real estate tax for low- and middle-end property owners in 2019. He said this would benefit nine out of 10 property owners, who would see reductions in the tax — levied as a bailout-linked measure — of 10-30 percent.

A woman stands in front of closed Metro gate during a 24-hour strike organized by GSEE, the biggest labor union representing the entire private sector and many public sector workers in Athens on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. Unions want the left-led government to ditch key elements of the austerity packages that were imposed in waves since 2010 to balance the country's public finances, under pressure from international bailout creditors. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
A woman stands in front of closed Metro gate during a 24-hour strike organized by GSEE, the biggest labor union representing the entire private sector and many public sector workers in Athens on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. Unions want the left-led government to ditch key elements of the austerity packages that were imposed in waves since 2010 to balance the country's public finances, under pressure from international bailout creditors. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis) (AP)

Tsipras added that he would postpone similar legislation for 2020 until after parliamentary elections when his mandate runs out next year.

A man runs by docked ferries at the port of Piraeus, near Athens during a 24-hour strike organized by GSEE, the biggest labor union representing the entire private sector and many public sector workers, on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. Unions want the left-led government to ditch key elements of the austerity packages that were imposed in waves since 2010 to balance the country's public finances, under pressure from international bailout creditors. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
A man runs by docked ferries at the port of Piraeus, near Athens during a 24-hour strike organized by GSEE, the biggest labor union representing the entire private sector and many public sector workers, on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. Unions want the left-led government to ditch key elements of the austerity packages that were imposed in waves since 2010 to balance the country's public finances, under pressure from international bailout creditors. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris) (AP)

His Syriza party is steadily trailing the main opposition New Democracy conservative party in opinion polls.

A woman walks by docked ferries at the port of Piraeus, near Athens during a 24-hour strike organized by GSEE, the biggest labor union representing the entire private sector and many public sector workers, on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. Unions want the left-led government to ditch key elements of the austerity packages that were imposed in waves since 2010 to balance the country's public finances, under pressure from international bailout creditors. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
A woman walks by docked ferries at the port of Piraeus, near Athens during a 24-hour strike organized by GSEE, the biggest labor union representing the entire private sector and many public sector workers, on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. Unions want the left-led government to ditch key elements of the austerity packages that were imposed in waves since 2010 to balance the country's public finances, under pressure from international bailout creditors. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris) (AP)
The closed central railway station during a 24-hour strike organized by GSEE, the biggest labor union representing the entire private sector and many public sector workers in Athens on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. Unions want the left-led government to ditch key elements of the austerity packages that were imposed in waves since 2010 to balance the country's public finances, under pressure from international bailout creditors. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
The closed central railway station during a 24-hour strike organized by GSEE, the biggest labor union representing the entire private sector and many public sector workers in Athens on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. Unions want the left-led government to ditch key elements of the austerity packages that were imposed in waves since 2010 to balance the country's public finances, under pressure from international bailout creditors. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis) (AP)
A man walks past by parked electric trolley buses in a depot during a 24-hour strike organized by GSEE, the biggest labor union representing the entire private sector and many public sector workers in Athens on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. Unions want the left-led government to ditch key elements of the austerity packages that were imposed in waves since 2010 to balance the country's public finances, under pressure from international bailout creditors. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
A man walks past by parked electric trolley buses in a depot during a 24-hour strike organized by GSEE, the biggest labor union representing the entire private sector and many public sector workers in Athens on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018. Unions want the left-led government to ditch key elements of the austerity packages that were imposed in waves since 2010 to balance the country's public finances, under pressure from international bailout creditors. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis) (AP)