ATHENS, Greece Greece’s government announced emergency powers to force striking subway workers back to work Thursday, with those defying it risking arrest. The standoff is the latest stage of a bitter eight-day dispute over austerity measures.
After unions protesting pay cuts had refused to return to work despite a Wednesday night court order demanding they do so, Transport Minister Kostis Hadzidakis announced the government was imposing the civil mobilization measure, under which workers who continue to strike risk a jail term of up to five years.
The metro strike and other public transport stoppages this week have caused rush-hour chaos across Athens and forced many commuters to take taxis or walk to work.
“The unionists have decided to follow a course of blind confrontation as well as adopting unreasonable strike methods,” Hatzidakis said in announcing the measure after a meeting with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
“As a result of their actions, they are causing difficulties for Athens and Athens’ society and they are creating a serious financial problem for the city. ... We can take no other action than to proceed with the measure of (civil) mobilization.”
Under a 2007 law to deal with “peacetime emergencies,” defying a civil mobilization order carries a minimum sentence of three months in prison and a maximum of five years.