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Riot Police Break Metro Strike, Subway Reopens

Greek Police Stormed metro Depot to end Strike of workers in Athens

Greek riot police in the early morning of Jan. 25 stormed the Athens subway train depot, where striking workers had barricaded themselves in attempting to continue their 8-day strike. Police broke through the gates and removed dozens of strikers. Authorities blocked off roads leading to the depot in western Athens to prevent hundreds of strike supporters who began arriving from getting to the depot. No violence was reported although the head of the workers union said they were prepared to resist.

Later in the day the Metro system began operating, as did the tram and train systems, whose workers also had gone on strike in sympathy with their colleagues. Service was intermittent but officials said they expected normal operations later in the day. Legal return-to-work orders were delivered to 80 percent of the system’s 1,300 workers during the day. They had to obey or face being fired. Police left the site of the Metro depot in western Athens some hours after the pre-dawn raid.

The operation came after the government issued an emergency order to force them to end an eight-day strike in an escalating standoff over austerity measures. “The Greek people have made huge sacrifices and I cannot allow any exceptions,” Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said  in reference to the metro workers’ insistence that they be exempted from the public sector wage structure.

“Everyone should understand we will not repeat the mistakes of the past,” he said. Parliament workers though have so far been exempted from more pay cuts and Samaras has yet to keep his vow to bring their salaries in line with other public workers.

The government’s decision to issue a civil mobilization order led to a swift backlash, with all other public transport workers declaring immediate strikes that left commuters stranded and forced to walk or take taxis home through traffic-clogged streets on Jan. 24. With the prospect of more road chaos looming, and after the union defied both a court edict and government orders to return, Samaras ordered in the police to break the strike.

Earlier, the head of the metro workers’ union, Antonis Stamatopoulos, proposed that employees call off their strike if the government agreed to pay them according to their collective contract, which lasts until April, while holding wage discussions.

Stamatopoulos accused the government of being a “junta.” Greece’s main private sector union, GSEE, also backed the action. Two senior members of the major opposition party Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) MPs, Panayiotis Lafazanis and Dimitris Stratoulis, visited the workers depot to express support for the strikers and their opposition to the government’s decision. The government invoked emergency powers  issuing a civil mobilization order against the metro workers who have been protesting salary cuts.

Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou told state-run NET television he expected the metro to be operating “as soon as possible,” estimating that trains would begin running again during the weekend. Defending the government’s decision to invoke a rarely-used law to end the strike, Kedikoglou insisted the new austerity measures must be implemented. “We are a society, an economy, at a very difficult time,” he said. “People can’t ask for exceptions.”

He added that, “The duty of the government is to enforce the law so that society does not suffer.” Responding to opposition claims that the government’s intervention to end the metro standoff amounted to “unchecked authoritarianism,” Kedikoglou remarked that authoritarianism is, rather, “the total disregard for judicial decisions, indifference in the face of the law and of society as a whole.”

The civil mobilization law, amended in 2007 to deal with “peacetime emergencies,” has now been used nine times since the 1974 collapse of a military dictatorship in Greece – three of those in the past two years in strikes related to austerity measures imposed in return for international bailouts. Defying the order to return to work can lead to arrest and jail terms of between three months and five years.

Unions and the radical left main opposition SYRIZA party accused the government of using dictatorial tactics. “The government is dressed in khaki. It’s a new coup against this country’s constitution to mobilize working people on strike on the subway with military-style methods to try and break their struggle” Syriza lawmaker Dimitris Stratoulis said Thursday. “The aim of the government is to scrap collective wage bargaining rights for a China-style reform of labor rights for workers in the private and public sector.”

Evangelos Venizelos, head of the PASOK Socialists who are one of the coalition partners with Samaras’ New Democracy Conservatives, defended the action saying the strike was unacceptable. The other partner, the Democratic Left, said it objected to the order but would also support it.

The Metro workers are protesting more cuts in their pay that would reduce their salaries by about an average of 20 percent, less than the reductions for many other civil servants as part of punishing austerity measures imposed by the government on the orders of international lenders. Those defying the order and refusing to return to work risk dismissal, arrest and jail time according to Greek laws.

(With information from AP and Kathimerini)

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  • Alex

    Bravo Samaras. I hope you criminally charge any that used violence or resisted police (as well as for trespassing). Also make sure to fine them. It costs the greek taxpayer money to kick these trespassers out.

    If the “junta” union leaders and the morons that voted for them don’t want to work…. fire their *sses already. There are many poor unemployed patriotic Greeks our there that would happily accept the jobs of these greedy self-serving commie union bosses that care absolutely nothing for their country.

  • Alithia

    Oh my GOD! The poor little commies had their human rights violated by evil man with sticks.

    Whats’ next? Firing them and replacing them by people who really need jobs? Ohhh the travesty! 

  • George

    Samara, please fire them all and if they protest further, send them to jail for public disruption. At an unemployment rate of 26% in this country, surely there a a few hundred well qualified people who can take these scabs jobs and begin a new career which they can appreciate?

  • The maverik

    It serves them right…They should be fired from their jobs and replaced with other unemployed willing to work…It’s about time for the authorities to stand firm against anyone who wants to harm the country’s prosperity…Saving Greece is above all…

  • worldarts

    New Democracy and PASOK are resorting to the use of their Police “Thugs” again to beat and gas and rule by brute force and criminal Junta decree ! 

  • George

     As opposed to the gangs of thugs known as the Golden Dawn which the police use so they dont have to interrupt their coffee breaks.

  • worldarts

    What with this silly childish “commie” stuff all the time from you and the nutter, Alex??
    Did you know Barroso was for REAL a “Mao” COMMUNIST before he was head of EU??

  • worldarts

    MORE on video on the REAL AGENDA of the EU in Brussels? Check
    this new one out on You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUiFKMw92yA

  • Alex

    Exactly right. Our country is under extreme pressure from many areas. We are being demonizing on a regular basis by masses of forigners (including foreigner funded NGOs… that collaberate with both illegals and Skopian trying to usurp our very identity) Right now we have to take actions to ensure the survival of our homeland.

  • Alex

    I say because I have to listen to communist morons like you that support treasonous communist Syriza as well as cheer on violence by communist and anartchist extremists.

  • Alex

     Who cares what he was. What he is matters. No one in the first world takes communists seriously. You are generally viewed as fringe fanatics of a failed ideology other than places run by socialist or communist dictatorships.

  • Alex

    No mention of the gang of thugs known as communists and anarchists which lawlessly attack the police that work for a democratically elected government?

  • Alex

    Have to love how you frame thugs the thugs that were trespassing as victims. Also love how you frame our government that was DEMOCRATICALLY elected in free and fair elections as a “junta”.

    Typically lying communist manipulator. Get a job you disgusting commie..

  • Alex

    Hey Stalin,

    Barrasso is now a supporter of the European People’s Party… a center right party. He is also President of the European Commision.. that a few days ago on this very website you bizarrely accused of being “fascist”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_People%27s_Party

    You are slanderous low life. All commies like you do is  rant and rant racism, fascism, Nazi,   at those that oppose your oppressive ideology….fantasize everyone with an ounce of success is part of some giant conspiracy against the poor… fantasize that the poor are all “victims”… fantasize your forign “comrades” give a damn about greece….. fantasize that communists would improve our economy rather make it much much worse.

    Please please STFU already. Communist failed miserably in every country is was ever tried. Only a moron would support communist thugs with 70 years of empirical data from countries around the world that shows COMMUNISM DOES NOT WORK.

  • Alex

     I am glad to see both left and right members of the coalition government worked together on this issue. Despite being left both Pasok and DIMAR lately seem to be putting their country’s needs ahead of trying to win cheap populist political points for themselves by sucking up to the irrational commie dominated unions. This shows moderation.

    Our government must no longer give in the blackmail of far left, far right, or anarchist extremists  some of whom seem to believe they are above the law.  We also can no longer have our economy held hostage by endless senseless strikes and riots. Our government wishes it didn’t need to do these cuts but we have no choice as we have to balance budgets. No amount of demands for money by communist thugs will change the laws of accounting.

    We need law and order, proper book keeping, and a focus on industry and trade if we ever wish our economy to improve. We do not need any more  terrorist thugs out on the street throwing rocks at police, firebombing private and public property, bombings, shootings, and other former of violence.

  • Adde

    You get a point here Worldarts. We are many who would have been more happy if we wouldn’t have left our national currencies for this stupid €. Also let’s face it, the EU is a failed experiment who didn’t bring us anything positive.
    Did the EU membership helped us secure the democratic system ? No, because we are on a verge of having a communist governement. Did this membership permitted us to spend less in military ? No, because the leading EU countries never wanted to defend our eastern border (which is the Eurozone’s East border !) so they could sell us weapons.
    Did the € had positive effects on our economy ? No, because they corruption got widespread. Also, our commercial balance have been distorted because the northern EU who profit of the € to sell us their products prefer to buy what they need from countries which have a cheap currency. For exemple, we produce Orange, Lemon, Olives, … and since we have the € many Northern EU countries prefer to buy thoses kind of product from … Middle Eastern country or … Argentina. Because even with a long travel to deliver the goods, it costs them less that if they buy this kind of basic products from us. With the €, we aren’t competitives on theses trades.
    For all theses reasons, and since our country isn’t equipped like Germany or Japan to produce high-tech goods, the Eurozone and especially the € aren’t good for us. The problem is if we get out of this failed experiment now, this kind of move would surely have catastrophic results for our country, the drachmas would worth nothing and with the famous corruption amongs some of our politicians, nearly nobody would accept to be paid with this money. The only solution would be to back it with gold from our mines or to pay with gaz (at the condition we secure the Cyprus zone but it would be difficult because in a case of exit from our part, we would surely face a risk of civil war due to the political climat.
    What would be good is if we could go back to the situation we were just before the Maastricht treaty = Working closely with others EU states (+ keeping Erasmus for the students, being involved in Pan European projets relatives to Science, …) without sharing the same money and having the complete countrol of our borders and of our internal policies. An European Union of Sovereign European Nations if I could say it like that. It would be better than this failed construct and we would be represented by our governments in the EU institution instead of being represented by unelected officials (for example in the European Commission).

  • Yiannis

     While I see where you’re going with this I still think it’s all about self interests-yes enforce the law but why let the parliament workers slide? Shouldn’t they be part of the solution? How come they deserve special treatment? I see why the Greek public and the rest of Europe thinks nothing ever changes.

  • AlexBC
  • AlexBC

     Samaras has not let government workers wages slide. That is just lies spread by far leftist and anarchist extremist (although I’ve been fooled by it myself so I can understand why you might have been fooled)

    I started to learn last year just how much misinformation the far left and anarchists spread. They live in their own alternate reality. I highly recommend when you facts from leftists sources that you cross reference from rightwing sources. You’ll find their is a great deal of BS going around and most of it is coming from the far left.