Transport strike waning as other sectors limber up

Public transport services were gradually returning to normal on Monday after trolley bus workers went back to work and striking bus employees appeared to be wavering, but the government faces fresh upheaval in the coming days with a rash of strikes and walkouts by farmers, seamen, doctors and other civil servants looming.

Following the example of Athens metro staff, who called off a nine-day strike last Friday after the government issued a civil mobilization order, trolley bus employees returned to work on Monday following a court ruling deeming their protracted walkouts to be illegal. Workers on the buses were holding out until late Monday but a decision by engineers to suspend their strike action indicated that their united front was crumbling. The head of the union representing employees of the Athens Urban Transport Organization (OASA), Leonidas Skoulas, called on authorities to revoke the civil mobilization order imposed on striking metro workers last week, noting that “a head-on clash will not lead anywhere.”

A spokesman for the Transport Ministry expressed satisfaction that most transport unions were “listening to the voice of reason and going back to work” and said he was hopeful that bus staff would follow suit.

As farmers in central Greece parked their tractors near key road junctions, calling for dialogue with the government on a new law that revokes their tax breaks, sources close to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras indicated that authorities were not overly concerned about farmers’ action intensifying, dismissing as exaggerated television reports of unionists threatening to “cut the country in half” by blocking roads.

Meanwhile Agricultural Development Minister Athanasios Tsaftaris noted that the government already had taken steps to support farmers, disbursing half of a rebate on the special consumption tax on diesel and paying out more than 200 million euros in compensation for damaged crops. Unionists representing farmers met Monday with the head of Democratic Left, Fotis Kouvelis, and are to meet with PASOK chief Evangelos Venizelos on Tuesday.

Meanwhile a host of other sectors are gearing up for strike action. The union representing employees of the Public Power Corporation (PPC), GENOP-DEI, has called a 24-hour strike for Thursday in solidarity with transport workers. Seamen will also walk off the job on Thursday, launching a 48-hour strike in protest at the government’s plan for coastal shipping which, they claim, will cut routes and jobs.

Doctors and nursing staff at state hospitals are to hold a 24-hour strike on Thursday to protest the government’s reorganization of the health sector, which has closed dozens of departments. Doctors and diagnostic centers working with the National Organization for Healthcare Provision (EOPYY) are due to strike the following day to protest a government plan to pay them 20 percent less than what they were owed by the social security funds that merged to form EOPYY.

Also on Thursday, the civil servants’ union, ADEDY, has called a work stoppage from noon until 4 p.m. to protest health sector reforms.

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