Greeks strike to mark train crash anniversary, protest low wages

By Thomson Reuters Feb 27, 2024 | 4:21 PM

ATHENS (Reuters) – Rail services will be halted and ships will remain docked at ports near the capital Athens on Wednesday, as workers walk off the job to mark the anniversary of the country’s deadliest train crash.

A passenger train from Athens to the northern city of Thessaloniki collided head-on with a freight train on Feb. 28 2023, killing 57 people and stirring mass protests over what many viewed as the result of decades of neglect of the rail sector.

Protesters from rail workers and public servants to seafarers and school teachers will join a 24-hour strike by Greece’s largest public sector union ADEDY, which represents about half a million workers.

“One year on, we are back on the streets to shout out loud that we won’t forget,” ADEDY said in a statement. “We’ll keep fighting so that those responsible are held accountable.”

A station master was arrested hours after the crash and a Greek judge is investigating the case. A trial is likely to begin in June, the government has said.

But many survivors and victims’ relatives say that politicians, who are protected under Greek law from prosecution, should also assume responsibility for safety system deficiencies.

Workers also are critical of what they say are insufficient pay rises, the first after fourteen years in the public sector. They say the increases were not enough to offset the impact of rising living costs. Workers want a 10% across-the-board rise instead and more hirings.

Greece has been recovering from a decade-long debt crisis and three international bailouts which it got in turn for cutting wages and scrapping holiday bonuses in the public sector.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ conservative government has increased the minimum monthly salary by 20% to 780 euros since it took office in 2019 and vowed to raise it further to reach 950 euros by 2027.

However, monthly salaries in Greece still lag behind a European Union’s average.

(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Aurora Ellis)