Hundreds of thousands of teachers and public service workers walked off the job in Britain Thursday in what unions hope will be the first round in a summer of protests against government spending cuts.
The one-day strike came as governments in Italy and Portugal each announced new austerity measures of their own and as Greek legislators fast-tracked fresh fiscal measures demanded by international creditors, following two days of rioting in Athens that left some 200 people injured.
About 750,000 British workers were expected to take part, disrupting courthouses, tax offices and employment centres, as well as schools.
A walkout by passport officers had been expected to create long lines at immigration entry Points, but most airports, including Heathrow and Manchester, said it was business as usual.
Thousands of union members marched through London and other cities, demanding that the government relent in its plans to curb public sector pensions.
Britain's Conservative government has insisted that everyone must share the pain as it cuts $124 billion Cdn. from public spending to reduce Britain's huge deficit
That deficit grew after the government spent billions bailing out foundering banks.
It is cutting civil service jobs and benefits, raising the state pension age from 65 to 66, hiking the amount public sector employees contribute to pensions and reducing their retirement payouts.
Italy, Portugal outline new taxes, spending cuts
Also Thursday, Italy's cabinet approved $66 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts to demonstrate to bond markets and the European Union it is serious about balancing its budget by 2014.
The plan must now be approved by parliament within 60 days.
And Portugal's prime minister announced new austerity measures Thursday, including an additional tax on private income this year, as the country struggles to reduce its debt, which recently forced it to take a $109 billion international bailout.