Transport unrest hits opening

Dozens of former fixed-term contract workers on the Athens metro network yesterday attempted to upstage the officials inaugurating the opening of a new station at Aghia Paraskevi. The station, the 30th on the network, will be used by an estimated 20,000 people every day. The operators will be hoping that things run more smoothly than they did yesterday, when several of about 300 metro employees that did not have their contracts renewed when they ended earlier this year, heckled officials from Attiko Metro, the state-run company that is responsible for the network’s construction, and disrupted the inauguration ceremony. The protest was in keeping with the general unrest in the public transport sector, where many workers are opposed to wage cuts, decreases in spending and the looming prospect of some modes, if not all, being privatized. The disquiet has led to a series of strikes and work stoppages during December and public transport workers will again walk off the job on New Year’s Day, when there will be no service. Employees at the ETHEL bus company have also lined up a series of work stoppages for the beginning of January. They have announced that they will be staging a work stoppage on Monday, January 3, when buses will only be available from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., while on Wednesday, January 5, they will not be in circulation between noon and 4 p.m. On January 10, the work stoppage will be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Despite the prolonged inconvenience to commuters, Deputy Transport Minister Spyros Vougias insisted yesterday that the reforms being undertaken by the government would pay off. «We will have a better system with integrated transport,» he told Skai TV. «Buses will be used to carry passengers to metro stations and this will help us save money on gas and overtime.»

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