Seamen insist on two-day strike next week

The union representing the country?s seamen decided on Friday to press ahead with a two-day strike next Tuesday and Wednesday which is expected to seriously disrupt the travel plans of thousands of Greeks planning to go away for Orthodox Easter, which falls on April 15.

The Panhellenic Seamen?s Union (PNO) announced its decision after talks with Development Minister Anna Diamantopoulou collapsed and despite the repeated appeals of tourism sector professionals and traders on the islands of the Aegean and Ionian who had been hoping to do some business over the Easter period.

Immediately after the announcement by the unionists, Diamantopoulou expressed disappointment that PNO was ?holding Greek citizens hostage and damaging the economy and the country?s image abroad.? ?By anchoring ferries, the unionists of PNO do not understand that they are doing themselves more harm than good,? the minister said, noting that they were undermining the ferry firms which also give them work.

Earlier this week Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos also appealed to PNO, saying that the union?s planned action would cause serious problems for Greek families that depend on tourism for their economic survival.

Ferry companies were also up in arms over the move as they have seen business dwindle over the past two years due to the repercussions of the debt crisis.

One ferry company told Kathimerini that it alone has already issued some 7,000 tickets for the two days of the strike to the islands.

For his part, the general secretary of PNO, Yiannis Halas, said he and his colleagues had decided to press ahead with the action as they were ?not satisfied.? ?There were no new proposals,? he said.

PNO, which has held several walkouts in recent months, is protesting the government?s plans to merge its health service provider with the state?s main healthcare provider (EOPYY). Unionists are also angry over cuts to state benefits and pensions.