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Interurban bus drivers stir the spirits on the eve of Easter

12 April 2012 / 20:04:02  GRReporter
2578 reads

Victoria Mindova 

Interurban bus drivers blocked the capital's bus station a day before Easter holidays. They protested against layoffs in the sector, which they consider unreasonable. Last month, the government voted an amendment to the law on labour relations that gave the green light to wage cuts and layoffs in case of financial difficulties. "I have ten years of experience in this sector and last week, they called me and gave me the dismissal order. They did not explain to me why I was dismissed, nor did they observe the law of giving me a six-month notice before the dismissal," said a driver from Halkidiki for GRReporter.

Six people from northern Greece have shared his fate as well as hundreds of others from different parts of the country. He stated that if the company management had given an explanation for the dismissals, the workers would have accepted the lower wages or other type of savings, but direct layoffs without observing the terms stipulated by law are unacceptable. In their opinion, the strike is a way to prevent more layoffs in the near future.

Hired bus drivers from the national transport network number about eight thousand across the country. The rest of the drivers are owners of the vehicles and are on the other side of the conflict. The proportion of employers and drivers in bus transport is approximately 70% to 30%.

Ordinary passengers wanting to get to their birthplaces or to change the urban surroundings during the holidays are caught in the middle. Of course, this is not an easy task in Greece these days, because either angry sailors are blocking the ports, or drivers are not allowing buses to leave the bus station. A woman shared her disagreement with the strike, "We are all victims of the crisis - our salaries are reduced, we do not know whether we will receive pensions and our children are unemployed. However, that does not mean that we will spoil the holidays of anyone who stands in front of our eyes!"

Bus owners, who are also professional drivers, have ensured that the journeys will be carried out, because they themselves will get behind the wheel. They promised that there will be no problem with the departure of citizens from the metropolitan station of Kifissou, which takes in about 15 thousand arriving and departing passengers on days like today. However, this did not happen with the promised ease because the strikers had occupied the exits of the central bus station in Athens.
Caught in the trap of the dispute between bus drivers and bus owners, the passengers at Kifissou bus station in Athens were quietly waiting for the blockade to be lifted. It started at 9:30 am at the exit of the bus station and at 10 am, bus drivers allowed a few buses to leave. Then, they blocked the entrance and the exit for buses. At 11 am, a bus to Kalamata tried to depart as scheduled, but the strikers stopped it. They sat on the tarmac at the exit, under a stretched poster reading "No! to dismissals" and did not allow the bus to leave.

Police officers with shields and protective helmets were deployed in front of the roadway, where striking drivers were sitting. The angry bus owners were on the other side. The atmosphere got tense and there were insults. Tensions escalated within a few seconds. The boiling point peaked after one of the protestors threw his coffee at one of the bus owners, who was insisting on releasing the bus station exit and lifting the blockade. Miffs were not late in coming but were quickly dispelled.

Police were on the alert and there were two buses of riot forces. They were deployed at the entrance and exit of the almost closed bus station. Strikers were mainly concerned that if it came to clashes with police, tear gas might be much more dangerous in the closed bus station than in open areas. Spirits calmed down before a final act of violence was reached when bus drivers were invited for a new dialogue with their employers. If the results are not satisfactory, drivers warned that there might be a second wave of strikes after Easter.


Tags: SocietyStrikesProtestsBusesDrivers
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