The Greek government has forced an end to a nine day public transport strike which brought parts of Athens to a standstill.
Over the weekend the Greek government forced an end to a nine day transport strike which brought much of Athens to a standstill. The union representing the Athens' metro workers called the strike in opposition to wage reductions which are demanded by the Troika(EU-IMF- European Central Bank). Other transport workers joined the strike before the government used the threat of mass arrests and police units to force people back to work.
The metro workers began the strike in opposition to plans to bring them under a civil service wage structure. The result of this could be a 20% drop in wages. These wages reductions are part of the last austerity package agreed in November which includes wage reductions and tax rises across the board. Throughout the strike the media tried to discredit the workers by stating that the wage of metro workers would still be €2,000, significantly more than most in Greece. Being an average figure it's not an accurate representation of the reality of the wage cuts. Many metro workers earn much below this average already at a time of constant tax and cost of living increases.
During the nine days Athens has had little or no public transport as train, tram and bus workers all joined the metro workers with strikes and stoppages. On day eight of the strike the government, panicking that shoppers wouldn't be able to reach shop sales, issued a civil mobilisation order.Under civil mobilisation a striking worker receives orders to return to work on threat of dismissal or arrest. Immediately unions representing all forms of public transport in Athens called a 24 hour strike in solidarity. However, early on Friday morning riot police units broke into and removed metro workers from the Sepolia depot, and with the civil mobilisation hanging over them the metro workers started going back to work.
Strike actions by other transport unions were called off on Monday as a court decision went against them. For the moment the strikes appear to be over though the dispute is not. The leader of the metro workers union Antonis Stamatopoulos said:
“We will force them to withdraw the civil mobilization........My colleagues were forced to return to work like slaves, with chains around their legs. They are not going to make me go back as well.”
Even as the transport strikes appear to be weakening other sectors are preparing to oppose the latest austerity measures. Farmers, doctors and power workers all plan strikes in the coming days. The public power company(DEH) called a strike for Thursday in support of the metro workers. Despite this show of solidarity the example of the metro strike shows that as long as the different sectors continue to fight on their own the government will continue to pick them off.
The government most likely is pretty satisfied with itself for breaking the strike. The austerity measures being forced on Greek workers are deeply unpopular and many sectors are resisting. A perceived success by any group of workers would bring action by other sectors and potentially derail the latest austerity programme. To deal with the threat the government has a clear plan which it used against the metro workers. First order people back to work, then threaten and finally use force.