NEWS

Strike motives questioned

Thousands of commuters in Athens had their journeys disrupted yesterday because public transport employees were striking in support of two tram drivers they believe were fired unjustly, even though the operating firm insists they were sacked for disciplinary offenses. The metro, the Kifissia-Piraeus electric railway (ISAP), the tram and blue buses all came to a standstill at various times of the day and night yesterday as workers walked off the job for the second time in as many weeks. Unionists fear the sackings could be the start of an effort to cut public transport system staff. Tram SA, the operating company, insists that the men were fired for specific disciplinary reasons and «despite numerous warnings.» Sources said one of the drivers was fired because he was suspected of being drunk on duty and then refused to take an on-the-spot blood test. The other driver allegedly suffered psychological problems after being involved in an accident that killed a pedestrian. He subsequently insisted that his mother accompany him in the driver’s cabin on his shifts. It is alleged the drivers were also warned about arriving late for work and not wearing the company uniform. Unionists believe that the two men should not have been sacked. «The fact that one of the drivers did not wear the company shirt or that he wanted his mother in the cabin with him sometimes should not be cause for him to be fired,» the head of the tram drivers’ union Christos Katsas told Kathimerini. He said the men should have been placed in other positions within the company. Katsas alleged the drivers were fired to set an example to others and introduce a regime of easy hirings and firings. «If we were not in the right, workers from the other modes of transport would not have joined in the action,» he said. «We’re worried that unjustified sackings could start in other modes of transport as well,» said Spyros Vassilakis, the head of the ISAP train drivers’ union. It is 17 years since the last ISAP employee was fired.