Infrastructure, Transport & Networks Minister Dimitris Reppas on Wednesday issued a strong warning to striking staff at various Athens area public transports, stressing that a draft law for reforming the loss-making public transport system will be ratified in Parliament, while calling on unions to “stop being at odds with society”.
Responding to a question on the Athens metro strike, which went ahead on Wednesday despite of the fact that it was declared illegal by a first instance court, Reppas said that “those who are on strike illegally will be faced with the consequences of their actions”.
In a relevant development, the Athens First Instance Court chief prosecutor ordered an investigation on Wednesday to establish whether a court decision violation by the strikers constitutes criminal offence.
Reppas repeated that the draft law guarantees the public nature of urban transports and will benefit public transport, the sector's employees and organisations, as well as passengers.
Meanwhile, the Athens-Piraeus Electric Railways (ISAP) employees on Wednesday announced that they will call off a 24-hour strike announced for Thursday, Feb. 3 and will adopt other forms of mobilisations to continue their protest.
Moreover, the positions of the tram employees as regards the public transport draft law were presented in a meeting of their representatives with an infrastructure ministry general secretary held earlier on Wednesday.
Traffic chaos, problems as strikes continue
Traffic chaos descended on Athens on Wednesday as public transport workers in buses, metro and electric railway continued strike action for the second consecutive day. Despite court orders declaring the strikes illegal, trade unionists said they were determined to escalate strike action until a draft bill reorganising the public transport sector comes to Parliament in 15 days time.
Workers in the Athens metro defied a court order to end their strike, which had been declared illegal in a ruling on Monday, picketing key stations to ensure the strike was not broken.
The only public transport running on Wednesday were the tram and Proastiakos railway line, producing gridlock on all major Athens roads.
Public transport staff accuse the transport ministry of not conducting true dialogue on the proposed reforms and stressed that they were also fighting against an excessive increase in fares, which jumped from 28 to 80 percent as of February 1. The breakdown in talks ensued when the ministry went ahead and tabled the draft bill in Parliament, virtually unchanged, while talks with the unions were still continuing.
The government has so far proved reluctant to resort to civil mobilisation measures used to break strikes by lorry drivers and dock workers in the summer.
Apart from public transport staff, doctors in state hospitals and social insurance fund health centres are also escalating protest and strike action. Doctors were continuing an occupation of the health ministry on Wednesday in protest against proposed health sector reforms, while hospital doctors announced a last-minute 24-hour strike.
Social Insurance Foundation (IKA) doctors are also on strike until Friday, causing major disruption for IKA insured, while pharmacists intend to shut their pharmacies once again on Friday and next Monday.
Metro management considering legal action against striking staff
The management of the Athens metro on Wednesday told the radio station Vima 99.5 that it was considering taking legal action against staff who are continuing a strike, even though it was declared illegal by the courts.
The metro was closed for the third consecutive day on Wednesday, even though a court had declared the 24-hour strikes on Monday and Tuesday illegal.
Athens metro CEO Sarantis Mihalopoulos said the company might even sue for compensation for lost income during the days of the illegal strike action.
Public prosecutor launches inquiry into illegal metro strike
First-instance court public prosecutor Eleni Raikou on Wednesday ordered a preliminary inquiry into the illegal strike by Athens metro staff in order to determine whether an offence had been committed and by whom. The metro strikes on Monday and Tuesday had been declared illegal by an Athens first-instance court.
The aim of the inquiry is to determine whether responsibility for continuing the strike lies with the primary staff unions or a higher union organisation.
Civil aviation staff strike ruled illegal
A 48-hour strike by the civil aviation service union federation OSYPA for Thursday and Friday was declared illegal by a court on Wednesday. The strike was being held in protest against a draft bill for reorganising the Civil Aviation Service.