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Sailors are blocking ports for two days. Civil mobilization is coming

09 April 2012 / 19:04:52  GRReporter
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Nothing can make the maritime workers trade union change its decision to hold a 48-hour strike on Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week. Intense negotiations over the weekend between the government and the trade union organization were not efficient. On Monday, the trade union board refused the invitation of the Minister of Health and Social Security Andreas Loverdos to meet and discuss the issues about the reforms in the social security fund of sailors. Government, tourism enterprises and island manufacturers hoped that the maritime union will cancel the planned strike at the last moment, but it did not happen.

"The proposals of the ministry proved to be unsatisfactory," Yiannis Halas, secretary of the union of maritime workers briefly told reporters after the long meeting with the Minister of Development, Competitiveness and Shipping Anna Diamantapoulou yesterday. She, in turn, said, "Last week, it became clear that this was a previously made decision, dictated mostly by the election focus of the Greek Communist Party." This was Minister Diamantapoulou’s comment on the lack of result of the meeting with the trade union, who is clear that all outstanding issues regarding Greek shipping such as competitiveness, unemployment, flag have been waiting to be answered for decades already. "They should be placed on the discussion table immediately after the election and be the real subject of an honest dialogue, when the election period will no longer be an excuse."

Members of travel agencies believe that, irreparable damage has been caused to domestic tourism. Last week, hundreds of thousands of bookings for the ferries that connect the island part of Greece with the mainland were cancelled. This year, bookings in hotels for the Easter holidays proved to be 50% less. Now that the strike has been confirmed, and following the subsequent cancellations, half of the hotels in Greece, which worked during Easter in 2011, will now remain closed.
The president of the Federation of Greek Hoteliers George Tsakiris said that the biggest blow to the local economy is not the decline in tourist flow during the Easter holidays, but the signal the country is giving. "Foreigners will say - the Greeks began their old tricks again," said Tsakiris, adding that this can cause irreversible damage to the local economy. "Protests deprive local communities of the right to work," explains Yiannis Retsos, chairman of the Athens Chamber of Hoteliers.

"The question is how to ensure smooth transportation of goods from the islands and smooth transportation of people for the Easter holidays. We must protect the interests of tourism," said government spokesman Pandelis Kapsis to Radio 9. This, apparently, will not be possible only with the tools of diplomacy and negotiations.

Possible civilian mobilization of the strikers is one of the options that the Minister of Administrative Reform Dimitris Repas did not exclude in an interview with Sky TV. This option could be the only outcome if the strikers did not abandon their plans to block shipping transport in the country's busiest travel period this spring.

In 2010, when the first series of long-term strikes against liberalization started, Repas was transport minister. In the two busiest months of the year (July and August), Greece was under a constant blockade by the union of drivers of trucks and tanks. They opposed the government policy, like maritime trade unionists today. After a series of fruitless talks and permanent difficulties in the daily transportation of food, medicines and fuel, the Ministry of Transport set an ultimatum - either civil mobilization of strikers, or imprisonment. The final measure was effective and despite the general disagreement of trade unionists, the strikes were called off. It is to be seen whether the same model could be applied to the strike of workers in maritime transport.

Tags: EconomyMarketsStrikesSailorsGreecePiraeus
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