"As a result of their actions, they are causing difficulties for Athens and Athens' society and they are creating a serious financial problem for the city. ... We can take no other action than to proceed with the measure of (civil) mobilization."

Following the announcement, striking metro workers who have been blockading the subway train depot in western Athens parked two fork-lift trucks behind the entrance gates, preventing anyone from entering.

The metro, which opened in 2000, serves more than 700,000 passengers daily, covering 52 kilometers (32 miles) with 34 stations. It operates alongside an older rail line, bringing the capital's combined daily subway traffic to 1.1 million passengers, according to data from the operators.

"We expect everything now, we have nothing left to lose," said Stamatopoulos, to cheers of his fellow strikers at the depot. "Let Mr. Hatzidakis come here driving a tank."

Metro workers are outraged by plans to scrap their existing contracts as part of a broader reform to public sector pay, with their union saying the measure would subject them to a roughly 25 percent pay cut.

Stamatopoulos said that metro workers had lost on average nearly half of their income through successive salary and benefit cuts since the start of the bailout austerity measures in 2010.

Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras ruled out any softening of the pay reform.

"In some public corporations, workers with elementary education are paid more than university professors," he said. "Nobody wants that sort of situation."

The strike has been met with a mixture of understanding and exasperation from commuters, many of who are in a similar situation and are suffering cuts to their own income. Strikes in general are so widespread and frequent in Greece that they have become part of everyday life.

"Good for them. How else can they live? They work 50 meters underground for ⿬500, ⿬600, ⿬900 (per month)," said Vangelis Zisis, standing at a crowded bus stop before the transport blackout was announced. "What is ⿬900 ($1,200) today when prices have skyrocketed?"

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