Greek seamen on Tuesday defied government warnings and extended for another 48 hours a series of rolling strikes that have left Greece's islands without ferry links with the mainland for six days.
Ships will remain tied up in port until early Friday, while the seamen's union will meet anew to debate whether to further extend their walkout. The union is angry at pay arrears and government austerity policies.
The strike has already had an impact on islanders, many of whom rely on the mainland for basic everyday supplies. On Monday, an island trade and commerce association warned that the seamen's walkout poses a substantial threat to small businesses in the archipelago, which already face severe pressure due to Greece's three-year financial crisis.
Dock workers are demanding back pay from ship owners, a collective labor agreement and an end to undocumented and uninsured employees. They also want the government to cancel a plan to regulate the minimum number of dock workers required in each crew, saying that would lead to layoffs.
The conservative-led coalition government has implied that if the seamen's strike drags on, it will force them back to work with a civil mobilization order. Last month, it employed that tactic to end a lengthy walkout by Athens' underground rail workers.
Speaking on Mega television on Tuesday morning, Merchant Marine Minister Costis Mousourlis said that the government has made an offer to dock workers with terms to end their strike, including the settlement of arrears from shipowners.
"There is no reason for the strike to continue," he said.
The minister's terms were rejected by the seamean's union, which accuses the government of maintaining a recalcitrant stance. [Combined reports