Thousands of civil servants marched through the Greek capital and the second largest city of Thessaloniki yesterday, as a two-day nationwide strike against planned job cuts shut down all public services.
Schools and courts were closed and hospitals were functioning with reduced staff. Trains were halted for four hours, and journalists joined in with a three-hour work stoppage, pulling news broadcasts off the air.
The walkouts are the first widespread strike action after the summer period, and aim to put pressure on the coalition government to repeal unpopular austerity measures required as part of the country's international bailout. Officials have vowed not to back down.
Government plans to call for the suspension on partial pay of 25,000 civil servants this year, in a drive to reduce the size of the public sector and meet conditions to continue receiving rescue loans. Many of those suspended are expected to eventually lose their jobs.The country has been depending on bailout loans from the International Monetary Fund and other European countries since May 2010. In return, it has implemented a series of strict austerity measures to reform its economy.