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Strikers admitted they do not know the drafts for the urban transport reform but are against them

09 December 2010 / 10:12:11  GRReporter
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Employees of urban transport that announced 24-hour strike yesterday and demonstrated in central Athens, failed to submit their petition to the Minister of Economy Giorgos Papakonstantinou. About 2000 people gathered at the rally organized by several trade unions of employees of the subway, public transport and railways, trolleys and buses, who were supported by the union of the Communist Party of Greece. The demonstration got to Syntagma Square in front of the Ministry of Economy about one o’clock at noon and the beeps of the motorcycles that led the procession warned about the coming protesters.

"We will go to the Ministry to submit the petition and then will continue the rally along Panepistimiu Boulevard to Omonia Square. The reason for the protest according to the unions is the lack of dialogue with society which the government has promised to do. We want a public dialogue to be held before introducing the bill," said for GRReporter the chairman of the union of the employees in the subway and the electric railway company Costas Dimas. "We have no idea what to expect from the bill, the press is our only source of information. No one told us anything officially. As for the average salary of the employees, it is a huge lie that it is 6000 euros as was written. Salaries start at 870 euros for young employees and reach 1500 to 1600 euros. This applies to employees in all mass transport facilities. Everything else they say could be extra hours but not wages." In other words, the average monthly payroll salary could be 870 euros, but real income per month is around 6000 euros.

Drivers, technicians, engineers, and transport employees chanted slogans in support of maintaining the public status of the sector and carried placards demanding the interruption of government credit payments. A large poster for the Minister of Transport Dimitris Repas read: "Mr. Repas, the only thing you can inflect is the verb "steal"- Committee of railway workers.

Two of the union leaders got into the Ministry of Finance to meet with the Minister, but as far as it became clear their attempt was unsuccessful because there was no one to receive them. Minister George Papakonstantinou was in Brussels at the meeting of Ecofin. The strikers announced they failed to submit their petition and the rally continued outside the Parliament and later to Omonia square where it finished. Some of the strikers decided to stay outside the Ministry of Finance and opposed the union leaders. "Let's go into the Ministry and occupy it until they agree to talk to us," said one of the strikers, while another suggested the strike to continue indefinitely.

"Well, let's occupy the Ministry but will you stand to stay outside for two days?" asked one of the women who also participated in the demonstration. Some subway employees rebelled against the union leaders: "Why did they gather 2000 people to demonstrate? We did nothing and lost our daily wage?! To arrange a meeting with the Minister?! Finally, they even failed to arrange a meeting and have spoken with the secretary of the secretary."

The petition of the employees of urban transport in Athens that ultimately was not given to the Minister contained requests for public transport, social nature and role of transport facilities, for a united institution they to belong to and a budget subsidy of 100% return. The employees stated they are against the government policy of the labour relations and support their colleagues fired from the tram and subway companies.

Due to the urban transport strike which involved railway workers unions many cars were blocked downtown Athens. Here are the stories about the moving adventures of some people during the day:

"I am a teacher in Spanish and live in downtown Athens. Today I am riding my bike, but I talked with the boss of one of the alliances where I work and she told me that she cancelled my classes. Otherwise, my schedule on Wednesday is very busy - I give private lessons and work in several foreign language alliances. I have half an hour gaps on Wednesday when I have to move from one place to another, which is impossible because the distances in Athens are really very large. Most of the places where I teach are in the suburbs of the city, but the good thing is that I can take my bike with me in the subway. Today I had to leave an hour and a half before the lesson to be able to arrive on time."

Mariana, 33 years old, a teacher in Spanish

"I am surprised that it took me exactly ten minutes to get from the neighbourhood I live to downtown by taxi. I live in Kesariani neighbourhood that is not far from the city centre but lately I had to go to work on foot three days a week. I get faster because the demonstrations usually cause incredible traffic jams on the streets and there is no sense to wait for a taxi or to move by bus. But I took a taxi today at noon and I thought we wouldn’t be able to move quickly because of the strike, but we arrived pretty quickly contrary to my expectations."

Stella, saleswoman in a fast food store

"Something incredible happened in the morning. Nothing was moving, the whole city center was blocked. The cars did not move even on the ring road and the highway to the airport. I talked to my colleagues to ask them where to go to move faster but everything cleared around noon and the traffic was almost normal, although Stadiu Boulevard was closed. I think there will be bedlam in the streets between 3 pm and 7 pm when everyone gets home from work."

Damianos, 29 years old taxi driver

Tags: StrikeDriversSubwayRailwaysTrolleysBusesTramsTechniciansMinistry of TransportTransportProtests
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