Greek taxis, doctors, dentists on strike

September 8, 2011 - 4:35 AM

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek taxi drivers, hospital doctors and dentists walked off the job Thursday at the start of a new round of anti-austerity protests by professional groups and labor unions in the debt-ridden country.

Taxi drivers were on a 24-hour strike Thursday against plans to open up their profession to more competition, and were to hold another daylong walkout over the weekend, while dentists and state hospital doctors began a two-day strike against a series of reforms affecting their profession.

More strikes from the likes of garbage collectors, teachers and tax office workers, are expected in the coming weeks.

Greece's Socialist government is stepping up spending cuts, under pressure from international lenders who have seen the country miss targets necessary for it to continue receiving loans from its bailout fund.

After years of overspending and waste, the country found itself unable to service its debts, and has been relying since May 2010 on funds from a euro110 billion ($154 billion) package of rescue loans from other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund. In July, European leaders agreed on a second, euro109 billion bailout with more favorable repayment terms for the country, after it became clear the first package would not be enough.

But the country has been struggling to meet the revenue and reform targets set in the bailout agreement. International debt inspectors left Athens last week during a bailout review amid disagreement over the country's deficit figures for this year and 2012.

On Wednesday, Jean-Claude Juncker, who heads the group of eurozone finance ministers, said Greece might not get its next, euro8 billion batch of loans this month if it did not meet its targets. Without the funds, the country would default on its debts within weeks.