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Hard times for public transport passengers in Athens

13 December 2010 / 10:12:10  GRReporter
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Urban transport employees that decided to stop all vehicles from 11 am to 4 pm are on strike still from Sunday. Buses, trolleys and subway strikes will hinder the movement of the Athenians almost until the end of the week. People do not believe these protests would make any sense as some of the demands of the protesters are unreasonable.

Shops along the main streets had to be open on today's day off to allow traders "take a breath"  but the shopping centers’ staff opposed to the proposal for opening the shops on Sundays until New Year. Urban transport unions stated they agree with their demands and a kind of support them with the strike. Lack of transport cancelled the initiative for making the central boulevard Panepistimiu a pedestrian zone to hold different events. The idea was people in the capital to move by bus on Sunday, to leave their cars to their homes and make a Sunday walk along the Panepistimiu temporary pedestrian zone as well as to be able to shop, but the shops stayed closed.

"I have no idea what the demands of the employees of the public transport are. I come in the morning to arrange the lights, but the worst thing is that there are no customers when the subway doesn’t work. I expect there will be people in the afternoon when the strike will end," said a stall seller of Christmas lights near the metro station Tisio.

"I do not know exactly what the demands of the employees are. Probably they protest against the reduction of the allowances that apply to many industries, but in my opinion such actions should conform to reality. Those who strike should be aware what is changing for them in comparison with what is changing for the others. Generally, they have reasonable demands. But the truth is that I'm not from Athens and I have not experienced in person what it means to strike often. I guess if I had to go a long distance, I'd have a problem. I wanted to do something in the afternoon, but I won’t be able to do it if there is no taxi. The question is whether the requests are related to a situation which applies in general and this is the overall reduction of salaries or it is about keeping the allowances for the central heating or to raise the antenna, for example. Then, what the people receiving about 500 euros a month should say... If it is indeed true that they receive such ridiculous allowances. But if the reports are correct, I do not know how people here take such a strike if the employees in the public transport want allowances that not only do not exist for others, but seem absurd. I work in a local newspaper, but I am not paid any allowances. It is supposed an allowance for unhealthy work should be paid to me because I work on computer. This applies to all office workers but is not included in my salary. Neither my salary was increased for the time I’ve been working, nor will it be increased in the coming years. On the contrary, most likely it will be reduced if these corporate contracts come into force. My salary is 680 euros, which is less than what I should normally receive but they pay me another 120 euros, as in parallel with the newspaper I help for two magazines," Evangelia, 31 years old.

"I do not watch much TV and I am not very well aware of their demands. It is certain that they relate to wages, they may even get their pensions reduced. It is important that they are financial demands. Strikes which the employees in all industries hold are due to the cuts of the over-time work allowances. But those employees who work at night or have unhealthy occupations, or were paid allowances for bearing certain responsibilities are most affected. I think that they shouldn’t cut the bonuses, but on the other hand people should be served and be able to move around the city," Aliki, 65 years old, retired.

"I think the reason for the strike is the wages but it is also against the increase in the price of the public transport tickets. I read this on a poster in the electric train. The poster said: "Cheap transport for all" or something. Apparently they are on strike because there is no other way to be heard and probably they first contacted the Ministry of Transport and have not found a solution. Surely there are some people in those companies that receive large salaries, but I think that ordinary workers do not receive very high salaries. There are allowances that should be cut indeed but there are those that are fair to be paid such as the allowances for unhealthy work and night shifts," Costas, 36 years old, civil servant.

The hard times for the passengers will continue on Monday as public transport will stop working between 11 am and 5 pm and the strikers will demonstrate in front of the Ministry of Transport in the meantime. The strikes schedule includes a 24 - hour strike on Tuesday, rotating strikes in mass transports on Wednesday when the 24-hour Panhellenic strike of all private and public officials will be held. The subway, trolleys and trams will operate between 9 am and 5 pm on Wednesday to help the participants in the rallies of both unions move. The next 24-hour strike of the whole public transport is on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the opening of new routes of the intercity train was postponed for at least a week because the strikes involve employees of the railway company. The changes that are expected to start with reform of the national railway company will serve as an example of how the other state companies, including the transport one, will be reformed.

First, salary ceiling of € 50,000 per annum will be imposed, which will affect those in the railway company receiving strange allowances, but bonuses for night work, which often amounted to two thirds of total salary some employees, will be cut too. The number of employees is expected to be reduced through transfers of employees from one position to another as in the state railway and bus companies. This will affect 4700 people in Athens who will be transferred to other state institutions. The new law will cancel the collective agreements and will impose the conclusion of new ones while new recruitments will be limited following the 5 to 1 scheme, which means that for every five workers who leave work will be assigned only one.
Changes in public transport companies will affect consumers’ pockets by increasing the price of train tickets that would have to reach 80% of the tickets for coach trips, and bus tickets in Athens are expected to cost between 1.30 euros and 1.60 euros from the beginning of January on. The reform in transport will bring down the salaries of about 10% of employees in public companies that have received over 4,000 euros, as this amount is the maximum for their employees. Salaries over 1,800 euros per month will be 10% cut. Marital status and unhealthy work allowances will be also eliminated which will affect about 89% of employees. The ceiling for the maximum reduction of the salary of each employee is set at 25%.

Tags: NewsPublic transportSubwayStrikeSalariesAllowances
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