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Protests

Athens threatens to sack striking metro workers

Greece's government has threatened striking public transport workers with sackings or arrests under emergency legislation. Athens' subway system remained paralyzed for an eighth consecutive day.

The Greek government warned striking metro staff on Thursday of arrests and sackings if they continue to ignore a court order to return to work. The government said it was beginning a civil mobilization measure, under which it could dismiss workers who refuse to end the strike.

"Neither the government nor society can be held hostage to union mentality," said Transport Minister Kostis Hatzidakis.

Metro workers were defiant, however, with one union leader, Antonis Stamatopolos, saying: "We will not back down; we will resist."

The workers oppose inclusion in a government plan to unify civil service salary systems, which would result in cuts in their wages.

Average gross monthly wages without overtime on the metro would fall from about 2,500 euros ($3,329) to 2,038 euros ($2,714). The government estimates that this would save about 22 million euros.

Debt-laden Greece is in the midst of a string of reforms to try to cut spending and raise revenue, many of them tied to the country's international emergency loans.

Losing patience

Public anger has grown during the week-long strike that has resulted in road traffic jams and hampered access to airports - even though people have become accustomed to a string of protests against the Greek austerity measures.

"The workers are taking advantage of their union power while the ordinary commuter, who is unprotected, is being punished," said a marketing company employee Antonis Demetriadis.

"Who is going to protect me? Would they care if my pay is cut?," he added.

ipj/msh (AP, dpa, Reuters)