ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek workers shut schools and forced hospitals to work on emergency staff on Wednesday at the start of a 48-hour strike against the government's latest plans to fire thousands of public sector staff.
Efforts to rein in the 600,000-strong civil service, long seen as spendthrift and corrupt, have been met with resistance from labour unions who say the scheme will only worsen the plight of Greeks enduring a sixth year of recession.
Called by the public sector umbrella union ADEDY, the latest action comes days before the "troika" of European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund lenders visits Athens to check what progress it has made on promised reforms.
"A long, onerous and painful winter has begun," said ADEDY, which together with private sector union GSEE represents about 2.5 million workers.
"The truth is that with every troika visit, our national dignity is destroyed. The economy and society are ruined."
Athens must put a total of 25,000 workers in a so-called "mobility scheme" by the end of the year, to be either transferred to other government jobs or dismissed. It must also meet a target of 15,000 mandatory job cuts in 2013-2014.
The troika has bailed out Greece to the tune of 240 billion euros ($320 billion)but has warned that it will stop paying out the money unless Athens pushes forward with reforming a corruption-prone state apparatus where hiring is often driven by political patronage.
Journalists, lawyers, municipal employees and staff at tax and customs offices are among those joining the walkout.
Several marches are expected to culminate in rallies before parliament in the main Syntagma Square, a focal point of anti-austerity protests. However, turnout is expected to be more muted than in the past due to a growing sense of resignation among Greeks inured to years of anti-austerity strikes.
(Writing by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)