Greeks strike over right-to-strike, paralyze public transport

Government pushing reforms to receive bailout aid

Greeks strike over right-to-strike, paralyze public transport
Protesters clash with riot police outside the parliament building during a demonstration against planned government reforms that will restrict workers right to strike in Athens, on Jan. 15. REUTERS/Costas Baltas

ATHENS (Reuters) — Greek bus, subway and city rail services were disrupted on Monday with some flights grounded as public transport workers and air traffic controllers walked off the job to protest a reform bill they fear will restrict their right to strike.

The labour action disrupted the daily commute for thousands of Athenians, causing gridlock on streets leading to the city centre.

In sympathy, other civil servants including teachers, judges and public hospital doctors staged work stoppages with their unions set to demonstrate later in the day.

The work stoppage is backed by several unions, including civil servants union ADEDY and GSEE, the largest private-sector one.

"The government is continuing a storm of anti-labour measures that impoverished Greek society," GSEE said. "This is the final blow to workers, pensioners and the unemployed as the bill essentially terminates the constitutional right to strike."

The draft legislation, due for a parliamentary vote later on Monday, makes it harder to call a strike. It is a bitter pill to swallow for Syriza, the dominant party in the ruling coalition, whose roots are in left-wing labour activism.

Unions can now call strikes with the support of one-third of their members; the new law raises that to just over 50 per cent. Business owners and Greece's international creditors hope will limit the frequency of strikes and improve productivity, which lags about 20 per cent behind the European Union average.

The government says it needs the reforms to receive tranches of bailout aid. The latest bailout, worth up to 86 billion euros (US$104 billion), expires in August. So far, Athens has received 40.2 billion euros, and a new tranche is expected to be worth around 4.5 billion euros. 

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