Australia Markets open in 7 hrs 4 mins

Thousands protest ahead of Greece vote


Tens of thousands of Greek protesters have marched through Athens before a crucial vote in parliament on a new round of austerity measures.

"They have already cut my pension from 2250 euros ($A2785) to 1250 euros ($A1547) and now I risk even further cuts. They do not understand that on this pension I am supporting my wife and three unemployed children," said Grigoris Vasiliou, 70, a retired banker.

"The austerity measures which are going to be voted on in parliament are a shame for every family, for Greece and for Europe," said Vasiliou, as he protested outside parliament.

The coalition government was facing its biggest hurdle with the midnight parliamentary vote on new austerity cuts worth 13.5 billion euros which stand to further reduce pensions, slash salaries and drastically increase taxes.

The government was expected to secure enough votes to pass the bill following the one-day rushed debate, even though Prime Minister Antonis Samaras faced opposition from his coalition partners.

Democratic Left MPs and a group of socialists of the PASOK party are expected to oppose it.

However, the ruling coalition has 176 seats in the 300-seat parliament. The bill would pass with 160 votes from the socialists and Samaras' conservatives.

Parliament has to approve the package agreed to with its international lenders - the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund - so that it can continue receiving bailout loans.

The next loan instalment of 31.5 billion euros is long overdue.

Without it, Greece will declare bankruptcy on November 16.

The measures being debated in parliament include additional pension and public sector cuts and tax hikes, a two-year increase in the retirement age to 67 and legislation that will make it easier to sack civil servants.

"I was supposed to retire in the next decade but now that does not seem like a possibility anymore," said 54-year-old public power employee (DEH) Christos Zorbas, who has been working for the company for 33 years and has already seen his salary slashed by 35 per cent.

On labour reform, the bill gives the government the right to cut the minimum wage, reduces the redundancy notice period and limits compensation for workers with more than 16 years of service.

"We should now be called the 400-euro generation. There is no future for me in this country anymore. Who is going to hire me when I graduate when unemployment is already more than 25 per cent?," said Efi Stragiadi, 21, a journalism student

The bill also gives shop owners the right to ask employees to work more flexible hours, paving the way for Sunday openings.

The vote was taking place as a nationwide strike entered a second day, disrupting public transport, closed down schools, tax offices and health services.

Ferry and train services have been cancelled until Thursday and flights were affected by a four-hour work stoppage by cabin crew.