Steel mill strikers clash with police [Update]

Riot police clashed with protesting steel workers outside the Halyvourgia plant west of Athens, in a labor dispute that has triggered a political spat in the crisis-hit country.

Police said they used pepper spray and scuffled with protesters on Monday, when about 150 demonstrators challenged a cordon in Aspropyrgos. No arrests were reported.

On Friday, police ended a strike at the private steel plant that had lasted nearly nine months, clashing with protesters on a picket line, after a court declared the strike illegal.

Left-wing opposition parties are backing the steelworkers’ demands to limit layoffs at the factory and not introduce part-time contracts, and have accused the new conservative-led government of acting like «gangsters.»

On Monday morning, Communist Party-affiliated PAME unionists prevented staff from entering the premises, resulting in the intervention of riot police.

“There are 100 of us inside the factory and more are coming to work,» Eleni Katavati, who represents the workers, said.

Meanwhile, Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis said that he will meet with workers’ representatives on Tuesday to discuss a possible resolution to the deadlock with management.

Vroutsis said he is open to continued talks, but as long as the factory remains open, «without padlocks and chains, without a police presence.”

“My belief,» Vroutsis said in a statement, «is that the problems that have arisen in terms of labor relations can be solved in one way only: with open, honest dialogue, mutual concessions, a spirit of understanding and a realistic approach to the conditions of the Greek economy.» [AP/Kathimerini]

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