Bill opens door to private firms to service bus routes

Bill opens door to private firms to service bus routes

A legislative amendment voted through Parliament on Wednesday night paves the way for private firms to operate buses on routes serviced by public transport networks in Athens and Thessaloniki, prompting protests by workers.

The bill was approved by coalition partners leftist SYRIZA and right-wing Independent Greeks (ANEL) and voted down by all other parties except centrist Potami, which voted “present.”

According to the reform, bus routes will still be set by the Athens Urban Transport Organization (OASA) and its Thessaloniki equivalent (OASTH) but the transport minister will have the right to allow KTEL intercity bus services, local authorities or private companies to operate buses on those routes.

The reform sets a strict operational framework, foreseeing fines in the event that either OASA, OASTH, KTEL or private transport firms do not stick to the agreed routes.

Still it was roundly condemned by workers and unionists. The tabling of the amendment in Parliament prompted OASTH to call a work stoppage from 7 p.m. last night and a 24-hour strike today, leaving the northern port city without bus services.

In a statement, OASTH workers condemned the “splitting up and assignment of urban public transport services which had been the exclusive responsibility of OASTH (and OASA) to private transport entities.”

The management of OASTH expressed concern about the decision by workers to call strike action, claiming that the reform does not harm workers’ rights nor put jobs at risk.

The General Confederation of Greek Labor, the country’s main private sector union, described the reform as “unacceptable” and called for it to be revoked.

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