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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 August, 2004, 14:14 GMT 15:14 UK
Athens hotel staff in pay strike
A man carries the Olympic torch in Delphi, Greece
The Olympic torch is on its way back to Athens for the opening ceremony
Thousands of hotel workers in the Greek capital Athens are staging a one-day strike calling for a big pay rise just days before the Olympic Games.

They say they are ready to take further action unless their salaries are doubled ahead of this month's games.

Unions say the latest offer from the employers is only a fraction of the demanded increase.

Wednesday's hotel strike comes a day after a similar 24-hour stoppage by Greek ambulance drivers and paramedics.

Ambulance staff want the same Olympic bonus as that promised to members of the security forces - up to 2,500 euros (1,650).

Hurdles

The hotel workers' strike is the latest in a catalogue of hurdles that have blighted the city's preparations to host the games, which kick off in Athens and surrounding cities in a few days' time.

The city has scrambled to complete venues, raise security and set up a transport infrastructure to meet the needs of the expected flood of tourists.

The hotel workers' union has not ruled out calling a strike during the period of the games, which run between 13 and 29 August.

"It depends on the hoteliers," said Christos Katsotis, president of the city's main hotel workers' union representing 7,500 workers, most of them junior level staff.

Unions said almost three quarters of the 11,000 workers they represent were staying away from work on Wednesday.

But hotel owners say the strike is having little impact and only affecting two percent of the total workforce.

Demonstration

The hotel workers are demanding a doubling of their basic pay, which is currently 650 euros (430) a month.

According to the union, the only offer from the hotel owners amounts to an increase of less than one euro per day.

To coincide with the strike, about 1,000 hotel staff demonstrated in central Athens on Wednesday morning, also demanding higher wages.

But Vassiliki Pachi, a hotel receptionist who was not taking part in the strike, said that despite the threats of industrial action everyone was anxious for the games to go smoothly.

"We all want things to go OK. Many people don't go on strike or to demonstrations. And if they do, its only on their day off," she told BBC News Online.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Richard Galpin reports from Athens
"Hotel workers say they are living on the poverty line"



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