A snap decision on Monday afternoon by one of nine unions representing Athens metro employees to declare a work stoppage for Tuesday morning, up until 10 a.m., generated an angry response by the government, as the state still directly controls mass transit in the greater Athens area.
In a later statement on his official Twitter account, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis noted that "... the government will not be blackmailed because it (the metro management's) merely requested that 21 individuals do their job. A legislative initiative will immediately follow to mandate skeleton crews (in such cases). My apology for Athenians' inconvenience."
"The government will not tolerate 21 people, who are in administrative positions when there's a need to transfer them to front-office (spots), holding 1.5 million citizens (commuters) hostage," relevant transport minister Costas Karamanlis told a morning news program on Tuesday, at the same time as traffic surged in the Greek capital's main thoroughfares.
Karamanlis, a first cousin and namesake of the former prime minister, said the government will not tolerate blackmail and "pimp-like" actions, reminding that the government has shown an interest in solving pay and work-related issues put forth by the unions.
Conversely, he said the specific 21 employees now occupying positions administrative back offices will be transferred to vacant ticket issuing and commuter support positions. The specific employees had been hired to work in ticket booths, only to be transferred to other administrative duties over the years.
Karamanlis blamed the shortages in staff at ticket booths and on the concourses on previous policies of transferring staff to office spots.
Another deputy minister later told a radio news station that out of some 850 people employed by the Athens metro, 18 employees were affected by an industrial action that brought the mass transit system to a five-hour halt.
The specific union is the biggest of the nine representing all types of categories of Athens metro workers.
Reactions by commuters were caustic on Tuesday morning, with the government also promising to examine whether the industrial action was legally taken.