Greeks Strike to Mark Train Crash Anniversary, Demand Justice

Greeks Strike to Mark Train Crash Anniversary, Demand Justice

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Rail services in Greece ground to a halt and ships were held up in ports near Athens on Wednesday as rail workers walked off the job to mark the anniversary of the country's deadliest train crash - and demand justice and bigger pay rises.

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

On Wednesday, churches across the country rang their bells 57 times to represent the number of those killed, many of them young students returning home after a long weekend.

Protesters, ranging from rail and hospital workers to seafarers and school teachers, joined the 24-hour walkout by Greece's largest public sector union ADEDY, which represents about half a million workers.

Many of them, including students, started rallying at meetings points in central Athens as they geared for a march to parliament.

Some held up a black banner reading: "We don't forget, we demand justice."

A station master was arrested hours after the crash and a judge is investigating the case. The government says a trial is likely to begin in June.

But many survivors and victims' relatives say that politicians, who are protected under Greek law from prosecution with only parliament able to investigate them, should also assume responsibility for safety system deficiencies.

Grieving families and survivors will hold a memorial service at the site of the crash in the Tempi valley in central Greece later in the day.

Demonstrators also protested against what they said were insufficient pay rises, the first after 14 years in the public sector. They say the increases are not big 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 received in return for cutting wages and scrapping holiday bonuses in the public sector.

The conservative government has increased the minimum monthly salary by 20% to 780 euros ($844) since it took office in 2019 and has vowed to lift it to 950 euros by 2027.

But the country's monthly salaries still lag behind the European Union average.

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