ATHENS police have fired tear gas in clashes with protesters, while stoppages halted ferries and disrupted public transport, as unions stepped up protests against a new austerity bill that will limit the right to strike and speed up property foreclosures.

More than 8,000 protesters joined a demonstration in the city centre as walkouts hit transport across the capital.

Despite clashes between police and protesters on the steps of parliament, no arrests or injuries were reported.

The austerity bill, to be voted on next week, is thought to be the last major package of cuts before Greece heads towards the end of the bailout programme in August.

Giorgos Perros, a senior member of the Greek Communist Party and a lead organiser of Friday’s rally, promised to intensify protests ahead of Monday’s vote. “Let them vote for whatever they like. We won’t stop,” he said.

More union protests are planned for Monday, strikes and stoppages by air traffic controllers, public transport staff and hospital workers.

Amid a collapse in confidence, Greece lost the ability of raising money in international bond markets in 2010, but after years of budget restraint hopes remain that the country’s economy is in line for a brighter future.