ATHENS, March 19 (Xinhua) -- Greece is in the grip of a new 48-hour strike which started on Wednesday, as the main umbrella union of public sector employees ADEDY protests against layoffs of thousands civil employees and labor reforms introduced to tackle Greece's debt problems.
Public-sector reform promoted by the government under bailout agreements with international lenders is one of the thornier issues in Greece, as unemployment rates keep high.
International lenders demand the government cut its bloated workforce by 11,400 this year. On March 22, some 2,000 public servants will be removed, marking the first round of layoffs in public services since 1911 when the country's then-leading statesman and reformer Eleftherios Venizelos introduced permanent public service jobs.
Thousands demonstrators marched in central Athens and other cities during the nationwide mobilization, chanting slogans and holding banners which read "No to layoffs. We resist unemployment and the sell-off of our country."
The new strike brought a large part of public services and business to a standstill, public hospitals operated on emergency personnel, local municipal services, post offices, schools and tax offices were closed.
ADEDY in an official announcement stated that the Greek government continued its "fake negotiations with the troika, driving into the deregulation of labor relations and strengthening domestic and foreign capital with the liberalization of massive layoffs and the reduction of employer' social security contribution."
The federation of public hospital employees (POEDIN) joined the 48-hour strike protesting the risk of dismissal that suspended employees will face at the end of March under a so-called mobility scheme.
Government reform in healthcare system have sparked strong reactions. Hospital employees demand the recruitment of permanent staff in order to cover shortages caused by the financial crisis.
The new strikes come as the government struck an agreement with troika auditors on the terms of the disbursement of further bailout aid to the country.
The debt-laden country is being kept afloat by bailout financing since 2010 in exchange of tough spending cuts, layoffs and tax hikes, which have fuelled unemployment, recession and protests on the streets.