Greek journalists strike for 24 hours following train crash

Journalists stage 24-hour strike following Greek train crash
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Journalists in Greece on 15 March staged a 24-hour strike. It formed part of two days of labour action this week over last month’s rail tragedy that claimed 57 lives.

Journalists‘ union Poesy said the strike was in support of “the nationwide demand to assign responsibility for the (train) crime and take all measures” to prevent further loss of life. Unions are also planning a general strike over the tragedy for 16 March, saying the crash exposed decades of safety failings in Greek railways. The tragedy has put major pressure on the conservative government ahead of national elections.

Police said about 12,000 demonstrators had gathered outside parliament on 12 March, while 5,000 took to the streets of Thessaloniki on the same day.

Government blames train crash on stationmaster

The incident occurred shortly before midnight on 28 February, when a passenger train crashed into a freight train in central Greece. Both were mistakenly left running on the same track. Most of the passengers were students returning from a holiday weekend. Meanwhile, several people are still in hospital, with one passenger fighting for his life.

Authorities have charged the stationmaster and three other railway officials. However, public anger has focused on long-running mismanagement of the network.

Greece’s transport minister resigned after the crash, and prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has sought to soothe public anger by repeatedly apologising and vowing a transparent probe. Acting transport minister Giorgos Gerapetritis said rail traffic will gradually resume from 22 March.

Gerapetritis and former transport ministers will appear before a parliament committee on Monday to answer MPs’ questions on the tragedy.

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Unions blame an underfunded rail network

Mitsotakis had been expected to set an April election date. However, ballots are now expected in May. And with public anger mounting weeks before elections, the latest surveys show Mitsotakis has seen a 7.5-point lead in polls cut in half.

The prime minister has come under fire for initially pointing to “human error” for the accident and blaming the stationmaster on duty at the time, who allegedly routed the trains onto the same stretch of track by accident. However, railway unions had long been warning about problems on the underfunded and understaffed train network.

Featured image via DW News/YouTube

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

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