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Striking Workers Defy Court, Won't Return

metro_strikeStriking Greek Metro workers said they would continue their work stoppage for a sixth day on Jan. 22, refusing to obey a court order they return to their jobs after a judge declared their strike illegal. The workers are upset about pay cuts being imposed as part of austerity measures demanded by international lenders.
There will also be strikes on other public transportation systems, putting a big dent in the hopes of businesses that shoppers would return during an annual sales period after a disastrous Christmas-New Year holiday season for store owners.
There will be no metro service at all on while the tram and Piraeus-Kifissia electric railway (ISAP) are to stop running between noon and 4 p.m. with buses and trolley buses suspending their services between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
The newspaper Kathimerini said it was unclear whether the government would resort to imposing martial law and force the striking employees back to work. A source told the paper that,  “We will use all legal means at our disposal.” The union representing the metro workers said in a statement that its action was a matter of principle and an expression of solidarity with two colleagues who, it said, “suffered acute heart attacks following the threats of the transport minister.”
That was a reference to Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis that the workers were resorting to unlawful tactics and he noted that most of them were still getting paid even though they were not working. The public company responsible for managing the metro, tram and electric railway, Urban Rail Transport (STASY), had launched legal action arguing the strikes are “illegal and abusive” as they are not in line with labor regulations.
The unions are protesting that their workers have been inducted into the unified salary scheme for the public sector and will be forced to take pay cuts. The management of STASSY told workers to obey the ruling and noted the inconvenience to riders as well as the economic consequences.
The continuing strike reportedly had Hatzidakis considering whether to order the employees back to work although it wasn’t reported why he hasn’t already done so given his criticism of their action.  Talking to journalists, he condemned what he called “monkey strikes,” where most workers are being paid and are prevented from returning to work because a minority of their colleagues keep striking. He said, “workers use different methods, such as receiving leaves of absence.”  Bus and trolley workers said they would also strike on Jan. 22 and Jan. 23 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
There were also work stoppages on the tram and Kifissia-Piraeus electric railway (ISAP) whose workers joined those of the Metro union who are upset with pay cuts. Hatzidakis said on Jan. 17, when the Metro workers went on strike, that only 33 percent were unpaid under their contract. The next day it rose to 48 percent but the others kept getting paid anyway. On the tram, 96 percent of workers are being paid during their strike.
“This is unacceptable and I can no longer hide it from the Greek people,” he said, adding that he told transport authorities to investigate what could be done. “There are rules and limits to strike action,” he said. “I’m afraid that the way things are developing, there is no respect for the rules or limits,” he added, the newspaper Kathimerini said.

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