September 24, 2019 / 10:14 AM / a month ago

Greek workers stage walk out against reform on strike action

ATHENS (Reuters) - Ships stayed in port and public buses and trains ran on reduced services in Greece on Tuesday as workers staged their first mass walkout since a new conservative government took office in July.

Protesters from the Communist-affiliated trade union PAME take part in a demonstration marking a 24-hour strike, in Athens, Greece, September 24, 2019. REUTERS/Costas Baltas

The government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis came to power on pledges to speed up investment and spur growth in a country where economic output shrank by a quarter during a multi-year financial crisis.

Tuesday’s action was triggered by government labor reforms, including moves to change some rules governing the calling of strikes, allowing changes to collective working agreements under certain conditions and setting up a registry for labor unions, which have called the move an attempt to control them.

Holding banners reading “Hands off Unions”, several thousand Greeks marched peacefully through central Athens under light rain on Tuesday.

“The draft law wants to impose asphyxiating state control, turn unions into tools for employers, depriving us of the ability to strike,” said Maria Voli, 68, a retired teacher.

Unions representing workers in fields as diverse as banking to nursery schools and journalism urged members to go on strike.

Labor union ADEDY, which represents about half a million civil servants, says the changes the administration is trying to usher through parliament would hobble the right to strike.

“This draft bill is a monstrosity, they are messing with our right to strike, they want to control it. We can’t sit idle and not protest,” said unemployed construction worker Michalis Mylonas, marching near Athens’s central Syntagma Square.

“It is in the interest of the working class not to bow to employers.”

The government plan also introduces a National Program for Simplification of Procedure - a fast-track licensing process for major investments - and disciplinary action for civil servants who delay permissioning.

Additional reporting by Angeliki Koutantou, writing by Michele Kambas; editing by Darren Schuettler and Alex Richardson

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