Riot police in the Greek capital Athens stormed an underground train station in the early hours of this morning, to break up a sit-in by striking transport workers.
A nine day strike by metro workers had brought the capital’s underground system to a halt, and at 04:00 hours this morning police moved in to break up the sit in by workers who had barricaded themselves inside a station. The striking workers are protesting against proposals to cut their salaries by as much as 25%, as part of austerity measures which the government has been forced to implement as part of its bailout agreement with the EU and the IMF.
The government has used an emergency law to threaten the strikers with arrest if they do not return to work, but they face tough opposition from Union Leaders with entrenched positions. Other transport workers, including bus drivers and railway workers, where due to join the strike on Friday, and Union officials have said that they have no intention of calling off the strikes. This is setting the stage for further stand-offs with police, and the possibility that some union members could face arrest on charges that carry a maximum sentence of five years in jail.
Public opinion will be crucial in determining whether the government is able to take a tough enough line to end the strikes. Currently the public is split. Many in Greece have sympathy for the striker’s complaints, but huge disruptions to the capital’s transport system could also prove deeply unpopular.