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Still No Metro, Greek Transport Strike Widens

mettro480Striking Greek Metro workers said they will continue to defy a court order to return to work and stay off the job for a seventh consecutive day on Jan. 23, protesting plans to cut their wages from about 2,500 euros ($3,330) a month to 2,038 ($2,715.)
Their salaries are about double what veteran teachers receive but are being cut along with those of other civil servants as part of more austerity measures being imposed by the government on the orders of international lenders putting up $325 billion in two bailouts to keep the economy from collapsing.
The strike is gradually expanding to other forms of public transport as well and comes during a critical annual discount period in which Greek businesses who have barely managed to survive rapidly declining sales and suffered huge falls in customers during the holiday season now find that many customers can’t get to them.
A Greek judge on Jan. 21 declared the strike by the main Metro workers union SELMA but the employees ignored the ruling and said the subway won’t run. There will also be closures on the Kifissia-Piraeus electric railway or the tram between noon and 4 p.m. and buses and trolleys won’t run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The newspaper Kathimerini said the government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is thinking about forcing the Metro employees, many of whom are being paid during the strike by taking sick days or vacation leaves, back to work or mobilizing a plan to get the subway back in operation.
Unions representing transport workers met on Jan. 22 in a bid to coordinate strike action. SELMA did not take part in the talks, prompting speculation about whether the metro union is attempting to convince other labor groups to call rolling 24-hour strikes, the newspaper said. The meeting, however, produced a tentative agreement over protests for next week. On Jan. 29, workers on all modes of public transport will walk off the job between noon and 4 p.m. A 24-hour strike is being planned for Jan. 31.
The government is cutting the annual salary budget for the Metro from 97.7 million euros ($130.18 million) to 74.6 million euros ($99.39 million) a cut of about 25 percent. The Metro is also losing millions of dollars a year to fare evaders because the system uses paper tickets that are required to be validated but there are no barriers to entry and many people walk through without paying.

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