Downtown Athens and Thessaloniki were turning into a motorist’s nightmare on Tuesday, as unions gathered at central public squares and public transport workers joined a nationwide general strike in protest at social security reforms being implemented by the center-right government.
In the capital, protesters from the ADEDY civil servants’ union and communist-affiliated PAME, among other groups, were gathering at central points to march onto Syntagma Square in front of Parliament, where the contentious legislation will be voted on by lawmakers.
Traffic jams were reported on Kifissos, Katehaki, Mesogeion, Kifissias, Alexandras and Vassilissis Sofias avenues, as well as on the northbound stretch of Syngrou Avenue. Roads to and from the port of Piraeus were also experiencing problems.
To help motorists, police have lifted the usual restrictions on cars in the city center and are allowing them to use bus lanes.
In Thessaloniki, too, streets in the city center were being closed to make way for a protest march, with food delivery workers holding a motorcycle rally on Egnatia and Agia Sofias streets before joining the main gathering of unions at Aristotelous Square.
The strike has left hundreds of thousands of commuters stranded as bus and trolley bus drivers have walked off the job in both cities, along with workers on Athens’ metro, ISAP electric railway and tram.
Out-of-town commuters, meanwhile, were in for a nasty surprise when workers on the suburban railway made an unannounced move to join the industrial action on Tuesday morning, despite assurances by operator Trainose on Monday that service would proceed as usual on both the suburban and national rail network.
Trainose CEO Filippos Tsailidis condemned the “sudden” decision by the workers to strike, saying in comments to Skai radio on Tuesday morning that the company will “do who it has to do,” without elaborating.
The head of the POS rail workers’ union, Panos Paraskevopoulos, however, told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency that Trainose had been informed of the decision to strike last week.