Unions state their intent

A work stoppage by unionists brought much of Athens to a standstill yesterday as the ruling conservatives sought to adopt a more worker-friendly approach in labor relations, which is proving to be a key battleground of their term in office. The four-hour strike, which began at 11 a.m., was organized by the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE) and the Civil Servants’ Union, ADEDY. Public transport apart from buses ceased to operate, causing gridlock in the center of Athens. The Greek Federation of Bank Employees’ Unions (OTOE) joined in with a 24-hour strike, the very day plans for bank sell-offs were unveiled. Although participation in the industrial action was moderate, union leaders made it clear that there would be more protests to come. «This is the start of our protest,» said GSEE President Christos Polyzogopoulos. «We want a proper wage agreement and a meaningful salary increase.» GSEE and ADEDY have planned a general strike for March 15. The government has tried to display a softer image in recent days by saying that firms should share profit dividends with their workers. «On a journey where sacrifices are needed, those who have the means should make sacrifices,» said Labor Minister Savvas Tsitouridis.