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Civil mobilization of the striking transport workers

24 January 2013 / 20:01:39  GRReporter
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The government has announced civil mobilization for the public transport workers who have been on strike for the eighth day in a row already. Athens has remained without underground for more than a week now because of the protest of the underground workers. They refuse to accept the change, which will include them in the payroll table for the payment of wages in the public sector and want to retain the right to negotiate and sign a collective labour agreement as before.

"Neither the government, nor the public will be held hostage to any interests," said the Minister of Economy and Transport Kostis Hatzidakis.

The introduction of a single system for the calculation and payment of wages in the public sector is Greece’s obligation under the agreement for financial aid, which the country has signed with the lenders from Europe and the International Monetary Fund. Under the same agreement, the single payroll table has included a number of other professional groups that are funded by the national budget - police, doctors, military, judges, fire-fighters and others.

The government deems groundless the demand of the underground workers to retain the right to sign a collective labour agreement and to maintain the level of their wages in a period of severe fiscal consolidation measures and widespread layoffs. On Thursday, Minister Hatzidakis met with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras for four hours before announcing the government's decision to mobilize the strikers.

"The government cannot remain indifferent when trade unionists decide to follow the path of blind confrontation," insisted Hatzidakis, announcing that the judicial authorities will seek criminal prosecution of the union leaders who had urged the workers to continue the strike after it had been declared illegal on Monday.

The measure of civil mobilization of the strikers has caused conflicting reactions. PASOK supports the government's decision but the Democratic Left (DIMAR), which is also involved in the three-party coalition, distinguishes itself from the proposal for mobilization. "At a time when society bears a heavy burden it is necessary to exhaust every possibility for dialogue. The uncompromising attitude of the two sides does not make it easier to find a solution," reads the statement of DIMAR.

The first reaction of the underground workers was to refuse to accept the government's decision and to say firmly, "The mobilization is a junta. Let them come to drag us away dead (from Sepolia depot)." Then, the tone softened slightly and some of the trade union organisations for the city underground, which are eight in number, said they wanted the government to allow the application of the collective agreement until April 2013 when it expires. They also suggest a dialogue with the government to negotiate a new collective agreement but firmly refuse to be included in the payroll table as provided for in the current plan.

The acute war between the government and the underground strikers required the intervention of the Prime Minister of the country. In a public address, Antonis Samaras said, "The Greek people made great sacrifices and I cannot make exceptions. Moreover, public transport does not belong to the trade unionists but to the citizens. They have the right to use it and not be harassed from morning until night. Let it be clear to all – the mistakes of the past will not be repeated."

The trade unionists did not pay attention to the Prime Minister and they have announced a new 24-hour strike for Friday, 25 January. It will include all means of public transport and the Greek capital is expected to remain completely paralyzed.

Tags: SocietyStrikesBlockadesGreeceCrisisPublic transport
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