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Athens' metro strikers defy court order

Subway workers continue protesting pay cuts for sixth day despite court ordering them to return to work.
Last Modified: 22 Jan 2013 17:15
Strikers say they will not return to work despite the court ordering t [Reuters]

Athens has been paralysed by huge traffic jams after metro workers, protesting new pay cuts, defied a court order to return to work and continued to strike for the sixth consecutive day

"With these latest cuts, someone like me who earned 1,300 euros ($1,732) per month will end up clearing something like 700 euros ($933)," said Antonis Stamatopoulos, who heads the metro worker's union.

"What's the point of working? We work underground, in the freezing cold at winter and often through the night and we cannot live on what we earn."

Traffic slowed to a crawl along the city's main streets as workers at the state-run city bus, trolley and tram systems joined the subway strike with four and five hour work stoppages.

Monday's night's court ruling against the metro worker's union allows the government to activate emergency powers to force the strikers back to work.

But the union said it would not back down. The workers have been protesting a change to the public sector's pay scales by the cash-strapped government which effectively results in new salary cuts for many.

New austerity measures

Stamatopoulos dismissed the court order and the government's ability to now force the workers to stop their strike.

"Civil mobilisation? They can enforce it if they want. Maybe they should come here with tanks to force us back to work."

But many commuters, who have also seen their incomes cut and were struggling to get to work, were showing little sympathy.

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"The strike has affected people, causing them to get to work late," said lawyer Konstantina Dimopoulou.

"It's unfair that they're inconveniencing people. This must stop."

Parliament approved new austerity measures last month, an essential step for the country to continue receiving money from bailout funds worth a total of 240bn euros ($320bn).

Late Monday, eurozone finance ministers meeting in Brussels backed the payout to Greece of a loan installment worth 9.2bn euros ($12.3bn) with most of that money earmarked for recapitalising the banks.

The decision has to be formally approved by the board of the bailout fund, known as the European Financial Stability Facility.

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