NEWS

Transport merger held up

Plans to bring the Athens metro, the city’s electric railway and the tram network under the management of one, rather than three companies, are being held up by the large disparity in wages paid to workers in each mode of transport. The government announced in March that it wanted to merge at an administrative level the subway’s operating company, AMEL, with the public firm that runs the Kifissia-Piraeus electric railway (ISAP) as well as the tram operator. There are also plans to bring together the bus operator, ETHEL, and the trolley bus company, ILPAP. The moves are aimed at cutting costs and achieving more effective management and coordination. Currently, AMEL is responsible only for the operation of the Athens metro. It is a public firm that is run according to private company rules. Another public firm, Attiko Metro, is responsible for the system’s infrastructure. In contrast, ISAP is a fully fledged public firm, whose employees are essentially civil servants. This factor, as well as the fact that the metro has been running only 10 years whereas some ISAP employees have been with the company for more than 30 years, means that the companies have two completely different wage structures and working environments. Sources revealed yesterday that this is proving to be one of the biggest obstacles to completing the merger. The average monthly cost of employing an ISAP worker is 6,373 euros, compared to an average of just 3,061 euros in the case of AMEL. ISAP employs roughly 1,200 people and AMEL almost 1,700. Metro and electric railway trains each covered 27 million kilometers last year. Some 187 million journeys were carried out on the metro system and 149 million on the electric railway. The Transport Ministry is faced with two choices. One is to create an across-the-board pay structure that would lead to anger among ISAP workers, while an alternative would be to put in place a lower pay scale for new hires when the company is formed.