General paralysis on ‘working day’

On what the government insists is going to be a normal working day, almost the entire public sector and much of the private sector will be out of action tomorrow as unions, incensed by the ruling conservatives’ refusal to move on the May Day holiday, have called a 24-hour strike. The annual May Day celebrations – which unions have always insisted on calling a strike, despite the day having been designated an official holiday – coincided this year with Easter Sunday. Causing intense union resentment, the government said any union rallies and commemorations of the May 1, 1886 strike in Chicago could go ahead tomorrow, but that there would be no public holiday. This did not prevent Parliament from awarding itself a holiday tomorrow, a decision castigated yesterday by the Synaspismos Left Coalition party. In response to the government’s decision, the public (GSEE) and private sector (ADEDY) unions called a 24-hour strike, accusing the ruling conservatives of trying to save employers some 125 million euros in salary payments. This will affect all forms of public transport, schools, hospitals and the entire civil service – including local authority offices. In Athens, there were be virtually no public transport tomorrow, with the metro, the Piraeus-to-Kifissia electric railway, the tram, blue buses (including the airport service) and the suburban railway all off line for 24 hours, ending at midnight. Only the trolley-buses will be running, although drivers will hold a three-hour work stoppage from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. All passenger ferries will be tied up in Attica’s ports – the country’s busiest – from 1 a.m. until midnight tomorrow, while minimal services will be running on the national railway network. Air-traffic controllers will also be on strike, forcing state-run Olympic Airlines to announce that it would only be carrying out one domestic flight per destination, and one international flight per country. Hospitals will be running on skeleton staff, with the strike carrying over into Thursday. Schools will officially be open, but most of the teachers are expected to strike. Athens lawyers will also strike. ADEDY and GSEE will hold a protest rally at 10.30 a.m. at the Pedion tou Areos, followed a march to the Labor Ministry.