Greece: general strike planned Dec. 15

A tourist sits at the central Athens train station during a strike on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010. A 24-hour strike was called by employees at the state-run National Railways to protest government plans to partially privatize the loss-making company. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
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A tourist sits at the central Athens train station during a strike on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010. A 24-hour strike was called by employees at the state-run National Railways to protest government plans to partially privatize the loss-making company.

Greece's largest labor union on Thursday called a general strike for Dec. 15 to protest planned austerity measures that are expected to cause a surge in unemployment.

The GSEE union said the strike is planned to coincide with a debate in parliament on next year's budget, which it said will cause an "unemployment nightmare" in crisis-hit Greece.

Greece's Statistical Authority announced Thursday that the unemployment rate rose to 12 percent in July, defying a seasonal improvement in job figures during the tourism season. It reported that 607,000 people were out of work that month from a work force of about 5 million, pushing the jobless figure up from 11.6 percent in June.

The Socialist government says the unemployment rate is set to rise to 14.5 percent next year and 15 percent in 2012, as a result of economic austerity measures that include drastic spending cuts and plans to restructure loss-making public utilities.

Also Thursday, about 1,000 striking rail workers marched through central Athens to protest plans by the government to overhaul the state-run rail company OSE.