Greek subway workers told: end strike or face arrest

Thu Jan 24, 2013 12:13pm EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Karolina Tagaris

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's government ordered striking transport staff back to work on Thursday, threatening them with arrest if they refuse to end an eight-day walkout that has paralyzed the Athens subway.

Workers said they would defy the order, issued under emergency legislation the conservative-led government invoked for the first time since taking power in June.

The strike is the latest test for Greece's fragile coalition as it faces down the unions to implement austerity measures demanded by foreign lenders as the price for bailout funds.

"Neither the government nor society can be held hostage to union mentality," Development Minister Kostis Hatzidakis said after five hours of talks with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

"The government can't ignore this. There is nothing else we can do."

But in a sign of the coalition's fragility, the move was criticized from within its own ranks as the smallest party in the three-party government called it "extreme".

"At a time when society is under such pressure, every option to reach an agreement must be exhausted first," the Democratic Left party said in a statement. "Being uncompromising - on both sides - does not help."

Samaras, however, refused to back down.   Continued...

Commuters stand in front of closed escalators at a metro station in Athens January 24, 2013. REUTERS/John Kolesidis