ATHENS, July 4 A Greek court ruled on Friday
that a strike by electricity workers which caused brief power
outages across the country was illegal, in a verdict that will
bring relief to the government as the summer tourist season
Backed by the leftist opposition, the workers have been
protesting against government plans to sell part of the Public
Power Corporation (PPC), Greece's biggest power producer,
fearing this will lead to higher tariffs and fewer jobs.
The workers launched a series of 48-hour strikes on
Wednesday as lawmakers debated a bill allowing the sale of 30
percent of the firm to a competitor in 2015.
The court ruling, which paves the way for the government to
order the strikers back to work, followed a lawsuit filed by PPC
against the workers on Thursday.
Privatising the firm is part of efforts by Greece to
liberalise its energy market at the behest of its European Union
and International Monetary Fund lenders and one of the
conditions for its next aid tranche worth 1 billion euros.
Athens is also eager to avoid major disruption this summer
as tourism is the biggest earner of Greece's economy, accounting
for about 17 percent of its output and 20 percent of employment.
Tourism Minister Olga Kefalogianni has said the strike could
tarnish Greece's image abroad, which has just begun to recover
from years of political instability and disruptive protests
prompted by the sovereign debt crisis that erupted in 2009.
"No one wants to see a repeat of the unpleasant images of
the past which defamed Greece," she said in a statement calling
the electricity workers' strike action "extreme".
Greek opposition leader Alexis Tsipras, whose radical
leftist Syriza party wants PPC to remain in state hands, said in
a column published on news website TVXS that privatising the
60-year-old firm was "a national and economic crime".
(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Writing by Karolina Tagaris;
Editing by Gareth Jones)