ATHENS, March 11 (Xinhua) -- A general strike starting from Wednesday midnight in protest of the government's new austerity measures crippled the Greek capital Thursday.
The 24-hour strike, the latest in a series of protests called by two biggest trade unions, the civil servants' union ADEDY, and the country's umbrella labor union GSEE, was in reaction to plans of tax increases and reductions in holiday pay in the public sector.
The plans, which were aimed at solving the country's debt crisis, cleared the Parliament last Friday. The move was welcomed by the European Union which is expecting an early fiscal improvement in Greece.
More than a million people took to the streets in Athens to vent their anger, accusing the government of making an unwise sacrifice of common people's interests.
Nearly all industries and all walks of life were affected by the strike. Planes were grounded, public services and transport in Athens were paralyzed, schools and hospitals were closed, ships were anchored, and streets were littered with rubbish.
Prime Minister George Papandreou said he was sympathetic to the strikers, but his government has no other choice but to resort to austerity measures.
Tax hikes and spending cuts were "inevitable after many years of negligence," he said.