Transport staff stop strikes to talk

Public transport workers who intensified their ongoing protests yesterday with a 24-hour strike that aggravated congestion on the streets of the capital pledged to call off their action later in the day after the government called on union representatives to come to the table for talks. Despite his tough rhetoric earlier in the week and even though workers proceeded with their 24-hour strike yesterday in defiance of a court decision that had deemed it illegal, Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Dimitris Reppas appealed to transport unions to join him for negotiations aimed at reaching a compromise. «We believe that public transport services should remain in state hands and we are committed to protecting workers’ rights,» Reppas said in a written statement. «Our goal is to better serve citizens and this is why we want better transport services… The aim is a common one and the responsibility a common one too,» the statement added. By late last night it appeared that most of the unions were prepared to send representatives to meet with Reppas. It remained unclear what kind of compromise the minister had in mind though sources said that he was expected to promise employees that the government would not cut their basic salaries. As for the 1,500 employees due to be transferred to other positions in state-owned companies, sources indicated that these transfers would not affect drivers but people in management positions and administrative staff.