Greek police storm metro workers sit-in as strike goes on

 

Greek riot police stormed a train depot in Athens on Friday to disperse subway staff defying government orders to end their strike, intensifying a confrontation that has paralysed public transport in the city.

The capital's subway lines remained shut for the ninth day as most subway workers continued a strike against wage cuts. But some were back on the job after being served the orders to return to work or face arrest.

The showdown has turned into the latest test for Greece's fragile three-party ruling coalition as it faces down unions to try to implement austerity measures demanded by foreign lenders as the price for bailout funds.

Scuffles broke out when police forced their way through a metal gate around 4 a.m. at the depot, where 90 workers had gathered overnight in protest. At least 10 workers were detained and then released, an official said on condition of anonymity.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's government has taken a hard line on the strike despite criticism from the smallest party in his three-party government.

"When labour action is judged illegal and abusive, the law has to be implemented. Everyone has made sacrifices and no one can ask to be made an exception," government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou told state television.

Other transport unions held strikes in solidarity with subway workers on Friday, leaving Athens without bus, tram, trolleybus or rail services, and causing traffic jams across the city.

Public anger has grown against the strike, which is affecting more than a million commuters in a city of 5 million people.

"This week has been hell. How can they expect people to be on their side when they do this to us? We're all suffering (from austerity) but it's very difficult to have any sympathy for them," said 50-year-old Dionisis Kefalas.

Other commuters, worn down by years of frequent strikes and exasperated by the long wait for a taxi to work, agreed.

"Ordinary people are being inconvenienced - as if our problems weren't bad enough," said Daphne Kiritsi, 46, an office clerk, who said she had paid 200 euros out of her 800-euro monthly salary for taxis this week.

The radical leftist opposition Syriza party, which is leading in some opinion polls, said the police intervention was a "barbaric" attack on workers' rights.

Subway employees oppose being included in a unified wage scheme for public sector workers drawn up under an austerity programme that would slash their salaries.

Government orders to return to work, issued under emergency legislation, were being served to subway employees but many had yet to receive the notices and continued to strike, a subway union official said.

Under the emergency law, which is meant to be used in times of war, natural disaster or risks to public health, workers can be arrested and jailed for up to five years.

Subway, shipyard and other public sector workers planned to march on Friday to parliament in Syntagma Square, the scene of sometimes violent protests.

The most powerful unions have backed the subway workers.

"The workers' struggle will continue until justice is had," said Nikos Kioutsoukis, general secretary of the GSEE private sector union, which has called a 24-hour strike against austerity measures next month.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate