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Vilnius' trolley and bus drivers went on half-day strike

  • 2000-05-25
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis
VILNIUS - A strike by public transportation drivers paralyzed Vilnius
during the first half of the day May 18. The streets filled with
pedestrians.

Drivers are demanding a raise in salary. The Vilnius municipality owns
the city's trolleybuses and almost all the buses. Vilnius Mayor
Rolandas Paksas showed little mercy toward the strikers.

"The current average monthly wage of the drivers is 1,300 litas [$325].
Their wages are paid on time. Most passengers earn much less money.
Most of the passengers who use public transport are secondary schools
students and pensioners. It is a strike not against the city or state
government. It is a strike against the citizens," Paksas said at the
press conference on the eve of strike on May 17.

Danuta Iljina, head of Vilnius' trolleybus drivers trade union,
disagrees.

"Salaries of 1,200 to 1,300 litas exist only on paper. Drivers receive
some 700 litas after taxes are deducted. We would be happy to receive
1,000 litas," Iljina said.

Local regulations, passed by the Vilnius administration, say 70 percent
of the city's public transportation system must operate during a
strike, because transportation is vital, especially in a city where 15
percent of Lithuania's population lives. On May 17 a Vilnius court
ruled that a strike by Vilnius public transportation workers would be
illegal. Strikers ignored the court's decision. Paksas promised to
launch legal proceedings against the strikers.

This didn't much impress the drivers. Very few decided to go to work
and to become strikebreakers. Only three out of 248 trolley buses and
18 of 202 buses appeared on their usual routes on May 18.

The trolley drivers and bus drivers trade unions proclaimed a full
one-day strike. However, the strike finished at 4 p.m. after trade
union and municipal authorities reached an agreement to continue their
negotiations.

Drivers received a significant raise in income on May 18 after their
strike put 450 microbuses and 82 private buses onto the streets as
substitutes, added to 40 buses the municipality called up from its
reserves. Still, it could not fully replace the usual level of
available public transportion during the strike.