Metro strike ends as workers forced to return to jobs

The Athens metro, tram and electric railway resumed normal service Friday afternoon after nine days of protest action as employees were served with civil mobilization orders and the government suggested that it will try to ease the impact of wage cuts on some public transport workers.

Shortly before 4 a.m. Friday, dozens of riot police officers broke through the gate at the metro’s main train depot in Sepolia and ousted all but a small number of striking workers. At the same time, authorities continued to deliver civil mobilization papers to some 2,500 metro, tram and electric railway employees.

By around 3 p.m., the first trains had started running on the metro and electric railway, thereby ending the strike that had begun two weeks ago.

“Under no circumstances can the government allow the country to be derailed and let the sacrifices of the Greek people go to waste,” said Development Minister Costis Hatzidakis.

Sources close to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said there was relief in the government that the operation passed off peacefully but also that the cohesion of the coalition had not been tested more severely.

Junior partner Democratic Left had opposed the use of the civil mobilization process and favored further negotiations with the workers, who were demanding that the government fulfill their collective contract, which runs until April, rather than induct them into the new civil service wage scheme, which will cause their salaries to drop by 19 percent.

However, the government indicated Friday that it might be willing to give some ground to the metro workers by adjusting the wage reductions so that employees lacking educational qualifications but who perform key jobs on the public transport network are not unfairly affected. The new public sector pay scheme uses employees’ education qualifications as the main guide for determining wages but metro unions point out that some of its drivers and other technical staff have basic education but vital skills.

“There are people who have high school diplomas but have received such training that they are more necessary than others with university degrees,” said government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou. “It is possible that we could make a special regulation.”

Sources said that the government may cut higher wage earners’ salaries by more to lighten the load on other employees.

“We lasted for as long as we could but unions from other sectors have to help out now,” metro worker Anastasios Gikas told Kathimerini, while showing his monthly pay slip for 1,158 euros.

Unions representing bus and trolley bus workers have called rolling strikes until Tuesday, while there will be no train service on the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) Saturday and Sunday due to a protest by its employees. The strikes were called in solidarity with the metro workers and it is unclear if the unions’ plans will change after Friday’s events.