Thousands of Greeks took to the streets of Athens on Wednesday during a nationwide strike against wage cuts and high taxes that kept ferries stuck in ports, schools shut and hospitals with only emergency staff.
Beating drums and chanting "Robbers, robbers!" more than 60,000 people marched to parliament in the biggest anti-austerity protest so far this year.
The two biggest labour unions brought much of crisis-hit Greece to a standstill during the 24-hour protest against policies which they say deepen the hardship of people struggling through the country's worst peacetime downturn.
Representing 2.5 million workers, the unions have gone on strike repeatedly since a debt crisis erupted in late 2009, testing the government's will to impose the painful conditions of an international bailout in the face of growing public anger.
"Today's strike is a new effort to get rid of the bailout deal and those who take advantage of the people and bring only misery," said Ilias Iliopoulos, secretary general of the ADEDY public sector union which organised the walkout with private sector union GSEE.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's eight-month-old coalition government has been eager to show it will implement reforms it promised the European Union and IMF, which have bailed Athens out twice with over 200 bln euros.
It has taken a tough line on striking workers, invoking emergency laws twice this year to order seamen and metro workers back to their jobs after week-long walkouts that paralysed public transport in Athens and led to food shortages on islands.
"Greece is making a huge effort to return to growth, to see better days, and when we're doing everything we can to attract investment, this image does nothing to help this effort," government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou told Greek radio.
In a sign it may be buckling under pressure, the government announced on Monday it would not fire almost 1,900 civil servants earmarked for possible dismissal, despite promising foreign lenders it would seek to cut the public payroll.
Six years of recession and three of austerity have tripled the rate of unemployment to 27%. More than 60% of young workers are jobless.
Most business and public sector activity came to a halt with schoolteachers, train drivers and doctors among those joining the strike. Banks pulled down their shutters and ships stayed docked as seamen defied government orders to return to work.
Get all the latest news and videos in your inbox. Register FREE