Commuters face a sixth day of woe as striking metro workers defy court order

Striking metro workers in Athens defied a court order to return to work and continued their protest for a sixth day on Tuesday, as demonstrations against new pay cuts escalated in the Greek capital.

Traffic slowed to a crawl along the city’s main streets as workers at the state-run city bus, trolley and tram systems joined the subway strike with four- and five-hour work stoppages.

Monday night’s court ruling against the metro workers’ union allows the government to activate emergency powers to force the strikers back to work.

But the union said it would not back down. The workers have been protesting a change to the public sector’s pay scales by the cash-strapped government which effectively results in new salary cuts for many.

“With these latest cuts, someone like me who earned 1,300 euros ($1,732) per month will end up clearing something like 700 euros ($933),” said Antonis Stamatopoulos, who heads the metro workers’ union. “What’s the point of working? We work underground, in the freezing cold at winter and often through the night and we cannot live on what we earn.”

Stamatopoulos dismissed the court order and the government’s ability to now force the workers to stop their strike.

“Civil mobilization? They can enforce it if they want. Maybe they should come here with tanks to force us back to work,” he said.

Metro workers gathered for a sixth day at the Sepolia central control center. They said that they have broad support from other unions protesting pay cuts.

“In our struggle we have the support of representatives from over 150 unions in both the public and the private sector,” they said in an announcement. “With its decisions and choices, the government is raping the people.”

But many commuters, who have also seen their incomes cut and were struggling to get to work, were showing little sympathy.

“The strike has affected people, causing them to get to work late,” said lawyer Konstantina Dimopoulou. “It’s unfair that they’re inconveniencing people. This must stop.”

Fixed-track operator STASY was back in court on Tuesday demanding action against the strikers, while bus drivers announced a further stoppage on Thursday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. [AP/Kathimerini]