ATHENS, Greece – Striking Greek workers shut down transport and tried to storm parliament Friday as lawmakers passed $6.5 billion in budget cuts, including wage reductions, needed to trim the region’s biggest budget deficit.

Police with riot shields fired tear gas as demonstrators wearing biker helmets and ski masks pelted them with stones outside parliament in Athens, where lawmakers approved the measures. Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou told parliament the cuts will show European Union allies and investors that Greece is making good on its deficit pledges.

“We didn’t create this crisis but now we have to pay for it,” said Manthos Adamakis, who was protesting with other catering workers outside the five-star Grande Bretagne Hotel on Syntagma Square in Athens.

Tram, rail, subway and bus services shut in Athens and other cities as employees rallied against cuts to bonuses and holiday payments. A walk out by air-traffic controllers forced the cancellation of all 58 flights to and from Athens International Airport between midday and 4 p.m. and the rescheduling of another 135, according to a spokeswoman.

Papaconstantinou said European allies should now act to pledge aid should Greece need help financing its growing debt.

“Obviously, the EU must undertake responsibility, which it hasn’t done yet,” he told lawmakers.

EU nations are working on a contingency rescue plan for Greece to be funded by European governments, according to two people briefed Thursday in Berlin by an EU official.

Yannis Panagopoulos, the head of GSEE, Greece’ largest union, received first aid after being attacked by protesters at the rally outside parliament. Manolis Glezos, an 87-year-old World War II resistance fighter famous for pulling down the Nazi Swastika flag from the Acropolis in 1941, was also hospitalized after being affected by tear gas during the scuffles.

Groups of youths caused damage to shops, ministries and bank branches during the protests, the Attica Police, the city’s police force, said in a statement. Five people were arrested for involvement in the violence and seven police officers were injured, it said.

GSEE and civil servants’ union ADEDY called a 24-hour general strike for March 11.


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