Greek Seafarers Promise Further Day Of Action

Greece’s ports and ferry services face further disruption after becoming embroiled in a nationwide 48-hour general strike this week.

The Panhellenic Seamen’s Federation, which did not formally declare participation in the widespread labour protests on Tuesday and Wednesday, has called a one-day strike today, with threats of escalating its action over the summer.

It voiced its “fury” with government proposals for seafarers’ pensions amid a plethora of cuts to public spending.

The umbrella federation had initially taken flak from some factions for not seeming to throw its full weight behind the general strike.

Instead, individual seafaring unions joined the protests, timed to coincide with two days of critical parliamentary debates on a mid-term austerity programme intended to qualify the country for more bail-out money and avert a potentially catastrophic default.

The Federation of Greek Port Employees and the Piraeus port employees’ union both warned in advance of participation in the two-day strike.

After staging a widely-publicised protest on the Acropolis at the start of the week, members of communist party-affiliated union Pame this morning blocked ferries from leaving the port of Piraeus, stranding many travellers. They said they would not leave the port before the end of the general strike.

The action comes only a week after executives identified union disruption to schedules, and the lack of port security able to prevent such incursions, among problems to be overcome before Greece can realise its hopes of becoming a cruise hub.

There was a near-total lockdown of road and rail transport yesterday.

The Hellenic Chamber was among industry bodies which called on the government to take steps to guard free movement of passengers and connections with the islands.

The chamber said it was watching developments “with concern”.

Flights were disrupted due to a four-hour stoppage by air traffic controllers.

In a written statement, Panhellenic Seamen’s Federation general secretary John Halas said the federation’s governing council opted for its action as the government’s mid-term plan threatened to “literally destroy the benefit rights of Greek seafarers, which were shaped only after hard and endless struggle and decades of sacrifice”.

According to the federation, the new measures include cutting seafarers’ pensions and imposing a monthly withholding on pensioners yet to reach the age of 60.

The unions called on members of parliament to vote against the measures.

“The only ones not to blame for the disruption to the poor travellers and for the unrest in the country’s ports are the Greek seafarers, who are obliged to defend themselves against this unprecedented attack on their rights,” said Capt Halas.

The Greek government yesterday won a vote supporting new austerity measures that will allow the next round of European financial aid to be released, but risking further unrest.

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