Striking PPC employees ordered back to work after court ruling

The government announced on Saturday that it is issuing civil mobilization orders to strike Public Power Corporation (PPC) workers after the Athens Court of First Instance ruled on Friday that their strike, which caused brief power outages across the country, was illegal.

The workers’ union, GENOP-DEI, failed to recognize the court’s verdict, which came just 48 hours after the strike was launched. As a result, government spokeswoman Sofia Voultepsi announced that civil mobilization would begin, meaning the strikers will be jailed if they do not return to work.

“The government had made it clear from the first day of this strike, which lacks unionist demands and has been incited, that its decision is to protect the public interest,” said Voultepsi.

Backed by SYRIZA the workers have been protesting against government plans to sell part of the Public Power Corporation (PPC), Greece's biggest power producer, fearing this will lead to higher tariffs and fewer jobs.

The workers launched a series of 48-hour strikes on Wednesday as lawmakers debated a bill allowing the sale of 30 percent of the firm to a competitor in 2015.

The court ruling followed a lawsuit filed by PPC against the workers on Thursday.

Privatizing the firm is part of efforts by Greece to liberalize its energy market at the behest of its European Union and International Monetary Fund lenders and one of the conditions for its next aid tranche worth 1 billion euros.

Athens is also eager to avoid major disruption this summer as tourism is the biggest earner of Greece's economy, accounting for about 17 percent of its output and 20 percent of employment.

Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni has said the strike could tarnish Greece's image abroad, which has just begun to recover from years of political instability and disruptive protests prompted by the sovereign debt crisis that erupted in 2009.

"No one wants to see a repeat of the unpleasant images of the past which defamed Greece," she said in a statement calling the electricity workers' strike action "extreme."

SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras, whose party wants PPC to remain in state hands, said in a column published on news website TVXS that privatising the 60-year-old firm was "a national and economic crime."

[Kathimerini & Reuters]