Greece's shaky coalition government on Thursday (July 18) scraped through a vote on a bill to fire public sector workers as thousands chanting anti-austerity slogans protested outside the gates of parliament.

Just after midnight on Wednesday, 153 lawmakers out of the 293 present voted in favour of the multi-pronged bill, whose passage was required to unlock nearly seven billion euros aid from European Union and International Monetary Fund lenders.

The bill includes deeply divisive plans for a transfer and layoff scheme for 25,000 public workers - mainly teachers and municipal police - that had triggered a week of almost daily marches, rallies and strikes in protest.

About 5,000 Greeks flooded the street outside parliament as the vote neared.

The reforms were passed hours before German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble - Europe's leading proponent of austerity blamed by many Greeks for their woes - arrives in Athens for his first visit to Greece since the debt crisis began in 2009.

Before the vote, Samaras announced Greece's first tax cut since its crisis began nearly four years ago, in a bid to placate protests and an increasingly restive public mood.

In a surprise television address, Samaras said the government would not relax, as he announced that value-added tax (VAT) in restaurants would be cut to 13 percent from 23 percent starting August 1.

Presented by Adam Justice

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