Athens: Gov’t – public transport workers conflict escalates after “civil mobilization” decision

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Disagreement among Greek coalition government partners and escalation of the public transport workers-government conflict are emerging from the decision to impose the measure of  ‘civil mobilization’ against striking Metro workers.  The proposal of civil mobilization was submitted by Transport Minister Costis Hadjidakis and was accepted by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. While coalition government partner PASOK supports it, junior partner Democratic Left rejects it as ‘extreme crisis management option’.

On the eighth day of metro workers strike, Transportation Minister announced on Thursday, that the government will issue ‘civil mobilization’ order to force Athens metro workers to return to work and resume the metro operation.

“Unionists have decided to take the path of blind confrontation and not to respect the decisions of Greek justice,” said Hatzidakis adding that the government was left with no other option.

“We cannot be hostages of guilds’ mentalities,” Hajdidakis stressed but refrained from elaborating whether workers refusing to comply with civil mobilization orders would be fired.

According to state broadcaster NET TV, the Transport ministry is to send the civil mobilization order’ to workers’ homes within the next hours, expecting them to comply immediately.

Workers’ reactions

Prompt was the answer of the public transport unions with the Metro workers to declare, they would not step back, Proastiakos workers to declare 24-hour strikes and bus workers to threaten with a total public transport black out in Athens. 

“The seven years of the junta were communists when compared to them. Let them come and take our heads. The meeting of  bus workers union was interrupted and everyone come here. We barricade ourselves and resist,” Antonis Stamatopoulos, president of metro workers union told NewsIt right after Hadjidakis’ announcement.

“Public transport in Attica will deaden,” Alexandros Kominis, president of buses workers union, told the same news portal.

As answer to government civil mobilization decision, workers at buses, urban train ISAP/HSAP and tram decided to extend Thursday’s work stoppage until the evening, while Proastiakos will launch 24-hour repeated strikes as of tomorrow, Friday, January 25th 2013. Trains will be on strike as of Saturday, Jan 26/2013 (state broadcaster NET TV)

Private sector union GSEE called the government to withdraw the civil mobilization order.

All public transport unions are to hold a meeting later today and decide about their further actions.

Earlier, public transport union had asked the government to delay their inclusion to Troika imposed ‘new payroll structure for all civil servants’ and to sign a new collective bargain agreement. Workers oppose a further reduction of their salaries, claiming that with the new payroll wages  will drop from 780 euro per month down to 580 euro. [that is the minimum wage which in fact does not directly affect public transport workers who enjoy higher salaries including overtime allowances, bonuses and other benefits].

To options of civil mobilization and lay-offs, public transport unions had threaten, they would bring ‘everything and everywhere to standstill.”

What is civil mobilization?

The measure of civil mobilization mean that once employees receive the civil mobilization order issued on their name, they will have to return to work. If they fail to comply with the order, they can be fired or go to jail.

 The civil mobilization law issued in 1974 has been applied eight times since then against bank employees, truck drivers, Olympic airways pilots, seamen and street cleaners.

Public opinion

 Greek public opinion seems to be divided over the public transport strikes. Some -even public transport passengers – support the strikes saying “workers can claim rights only through strikes” and “what should they do if they don’t get paid?”. Others support the idea of ‘firing the striking workers”.