NEWS

Gov’t eyes port worker transfers in bid to stop strike

TAGS: Strike, Protest, Tourism, Economy, Politics

In a bid to appease striking port workers, whose action has caused problems at the ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki, the government is seeking to transfer disaffected staff to other parts of the civil service.

The initiative comes as shareholders of Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) are to meet Friday to ratify the contract for the concession of 67 percent of the port to Chinese logistics giant Cosco Pacific, which already has a strong presence there.

Striking workers are planning to stage a rally outside the premises of the Athens Stock Exchange, where the shareholders are to hold their meeting.

The government’s plan to transfer port workers to other positions was discussed on Wednesday night by Shipping Minister Theodoros Dritsas and other cabinet officials.

In a letter to unionists, Dritsas said the plan for worker transfers would be put up for public consultation soon.

However, the head of the union of Greek port workers, Giorgos Georgakopoulos, said the assurances offered by the government were not satisfactory. “We have no other choice but to continue with our action,” he said.

OLP employs 1,121 workers and Thessaloniki Port Authority has 420 workers.

The ongoing strike has caused problems for cruise liners at both ports and for cargo transport at the port of Thessaloniki.

The chairman of Greece’s privatization agency, TAIPED, Stergios Pitsiorlas, who is overseeing the privatization of both ports, said the strikes were “disastrous.”

The strike’s impact on the credibility of Piraeus port, the country’s largest, was raised by the chairman of OLP, Yiannis Kouvaris, who noted the increasing frustration of foreign cruise ship companies and referred to a letter sent by Bill Sharp, the vice president at the Carnival Group’s Holland America Line, that warned it may revaluate its future policy with regard to Greek ports if the situation continues.

Sharp said he had received reassurances from OLP officials last year over the reliability of port workers.

The strike has compounded problems faced by foreign cruise liners in the region as neighboring Turkey’s lure as a destination has been compromised by a spate of terrorist attacks.

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