Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis on Thursday said the Greek government will issue civil mobilization orders to make Athens metro staff, who have been on strike for eight days, return to their jobs.
Hatzidakis, who is responsible for transport, announced the decision after a four-hour emergency meeting with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on the issue.
“Unionists have decided to take the path of blind confrontation and not to respect the decisions of Greece's courts,” said Hatzidakis adding that the country could not be held ransom to vested interests.
The measure of civil mobilization – used against seamen, truckers and street cleaners in 2010 and 2011 – means that employees will have to return to work or face the prospect of going directly to jail.
Workers, who are protesting their inclusion in a new unified wage structure for civil servants that will see a reduction in their incomes, on Thursday slammed the decision.
“Over our dead bodies,” Antonis Stamatopoulos, head of the Athens metro workers union, told Skai radio.
"It's not that Metro workers went crazy over the last eight days. We exhausted every possibility before going on strike. We've reached our limits. We've run out of patience," said Manthos Tsakos, general secretary of the Metro workers' union.
Bus workers, as well as those at the Kifissia-Piraeus electric railway (ISAP), said they would extend their work stoppage after 5 p.m. in solidarity with the metro staff. Trolley buses also suspended their services.
Earlier on Thursday worker representatives had said they would suspend their action if the government committed to maintaining the collective labor agreement, which expires on April 30, before negotiating a new deal.
Also on Thursday the Pan-Hellenic Seaman’s Union decided to hold a 48- hour strike starting on Jan. 31 to protest government policies affecting its members.