Anti-strike law tempered

The government yesterday heralded the reform of an «outdated» constitutional provision known as «civil mobilization» that allows it to order striking employees back to work by invoking martial law. The reform would loosen the government’s grip on striking workers who, according to the current law, are placed under military orders, meaning that any refusal to work would make them liable to trial in military courts. However, according to the reforms, which have been approved by the Inner Cabinet, the government would be able to invoke martial law in emergency situations «such as natural disasters and threats to public health and public order.» In these extreme cases, it would be the role of the prime minister to invoke the law, rather than the defense minister, as the current law dictates. «This is an outdated decree which must be reformed if it is to comply with constitutional provisions,» Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos told reporters yesterday, adding that the law had been drafted prior to the Constitution of 1975. «The government had pledged to adapt (the law) to the demands of modern reality in February 2006 when dock workers at Piraeus were obliged to stop their strike,» alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said. Last February the Merchant Marine Ministry responded to a weeklong sailors’ strike at Piraeus by resorting to the rarely applied measure of civil mobilization, effectively making the sailors conscripts and subject to military orders. The government decided to implement this strike-breaking measure after the extended action stranded thousands of trucks at ports around the country and cut off supplies to several islands. The previous socialist PASOK government resorted to the same measure in 2002 when its attempts to negotiate with striking seamen foundered.

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