ATHENS – A sudden decision by one of nine unions representing Athens metro employees to stop work the morning of Dec. 17 during the Christmas shopping season, stranding commuters, brought an angry response from Transport Minister Costas Karamanlis.
“The government will not tolerate 21 people, who are in administrative positions when there’s a need to transfer them to front-office (spots), holding 1.5 million citizens (commuters) hostage,” he said.
Their action stopped the metro until 10 a.m. during the morning hours when people are going to work or heading into downtown Athens for shopping or other neighborhoods, with no announcement there wouldn’t be transportation.
Karamanlis didn’t say whether the strikers would be paid for not working as has happened frequently with the employees giving themselves some paid time off and without facing any consequences from any government yet.
Karamanlis said the government will not tolerate blackmail and “pimp-like” actions as it has tried to solve pay and work-related issues put forth by the unions. He said the 21 people who halted the metro would be transferred from administrative positions to issuing tickets and other lesser positions.
It wasn’t said what their grievances were as Karamanlis blamed shortages in staff at ticket booths and on the concourses on previous policies of transferring staff to office spots, leaving people trying to buy electronic tickets at machines in long queues.
The union the strikers work for is the biggest of those representing Athens metro workers who frequently go on several hour strikes that don’t affect government ministers who have state-paid cars.
Commuters were not happy, said Greek media, at being caught by surprise and left to their own devices on how to travel without any warning, leaving the capital in a stranglehold of gridlocked traffic as people resorted to taking their cars.
Karamanlis said the government will consider measures to minimize the impact of strikes by requiring a minimum number of workers to stay on the job in order to ensure service but didn’t say if strikers would also have their pay docked.
In a tweet, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that the “government will not be blackmailed by 21 people who were simply asked to do their jobs,” and apologized for the inconvenience for travelers and workers.