Thursday, 24 January 2013

Transport Workers Refuse Requisition Order

Thousands of public transport passengers were left stranded on the streets of Athens today, after drivers told them to disembark around lunchtime, then drove their vehicles back to their depots. 

The unions’ decision to act in concert is likely to cause gridlock for days.  It came after the Athens prefect issued an order to commandeer Metro workers back to their trains. Movement in Athens has already been difficult with the Metro on strike for eight days, and bus, trolley and tram unions dipping in and out.

Transport workers are unhappy with the streamlining of public sector wages, but the government told unions today that it can’t favour particular groups. 

"The government made it clear during talks that there was no leeway to exempt anyone from the consolidated [state] payroll," Development Minister Kostis Hatzidakis told reporters after the wage talks ended. "Despite this, the unionists decided to take the path of blind confrontation... There's nothing we can do but to requisition workers." 

Dimitris Stratoulis, an MP and spokesman for the radical left opposition, Syriza, said "the coalition has dressed in fatigues, and is conscripting the strikers in an unconstitutional coup." He indicated that Syriza will seek to broaden the confrontation by backing the unions and forming a "Great Wall" against which "conscription will be smashed."

Public sector workers were consolidated onto a single payroll and pay scale last year, which equalised weaker unions with those that had more bargaining power. Transport workers in Athens have traditionally had a lot of political clout and have, over the years, won favours in pay and benefits.

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