ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Riot police clashed with protesting steel workers outside a factory near Athens on Monday, in a labor dispute that has triggered a political spat in the crisis-hit country.
Police said they used pepper spray and scuffled with protesters, when about 150 demonstrators challenged a cordon west of the capital. No arrests were reported.
On Friday, police ended a strike at the private steel plant that had lasted nearly nine months, clashing with protesters on a picket line, after a court declared the strike illegal.
Left wing opposition parties are backing the steelworkers' demands, accusing the new conservative-led government of acting like "gangsters." And late Monday they organized a rally in central Athens, joined by several thousand people.
Nikolaos Harakopoulos, deputy leader of the protesting steel workers' union, accused the government of undermining talks also involving his union and employers to try and resolve the dispute.
"As long as they try to deceive us, the more stubborn steel workers become," Harakopoulos told the AP. "We have made very flexible proposals to rehire workers who were laid off. But, instead, they brought the riot police ... If they use bullying tactics and violence, we will stay to the end — as many as we can — to continue the struggle."
Protesters chanting "We can't live on €400 ($485) a month," marched to parliament before the rally ended peacefully.
Unions are demanding that employers at the steel plant limit layoffs at the factory that employed around 400 workers last year, and not introduce part-time contracts.