ECONOMY

Overpaid dockworkers?

Millions of Greek workers – especially the unemployed – would love to earn 140,000 euros, which is the annual income of some dockers at the Piraeus Port Authority (OLP). Such high salaries undoubtedly boost the Athens Stock Exchange-listed utility’s operating costs. Ultimately, they also burden its users. Data by the Ministry of Merchant Marine show that dockers were paid extraordinary amounts for things such as overtime, allowances, and work on weekends and holidays. This highlights the chaotic salary policy applied in the last few years at the country’s first harbor. Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis said there were considerably fewer dockers manning the port’s posts than those officially assigned to them. And yet overtime is credited to everyone on the lists and not just those who actually worked. «This means that the Greek taxpayer has to pay dockers for work they never did, in fact. This way some people steal from others,» ministry sources told Kathimerini, adding that «this situation, which has been going on for years, will end, and order will be restored, regardless of the cost.» Piraeus prosecutor Grigoris Peponis yesterday ordered an investigation into these revelations, also mentioned by Kefaloyiannis in Parliament last weekend. The prosecutor specifically wants to know how much money dockers are paid and whether anyone has received money for overtime they have not worked. Dockers’ representatives, for their part, explain the high overtime figures by saying the port is short of workers. Workers on duty need to work twice as long to get the job done, they said. «We have asked for permanent staff to be hired to cover the needs so that we do not have to work double time,» Giorgos Nouhoutidis, head of the OLP dockers’ union said. «However, instead of hiring permanent staff, the minister wants to bring in people with eight-month contracts which in practice cannot help because by the time they are trained they must go,» Nouhoutidis said. It was Kefaloyiannis who brought up this issue, telling Parliament: «There are employees at OLP who are paid up to 150,000 euros per year. Through various entitlements, they form the aristocracy of the public sector.» His ministry’s records show dozens of dockers earning between 100,000 and 142,000 euros annually. «These amounts of money are explained by the fact that records show dockers working more than 16 hours per day and 30 days a month, enjoying high payments from the overtime they are credited with, regardless of whether they have actually worked it,» ministry sources told Kathimerini. Three unexpected visits by Kefaloyiannis at the Container Terminal (SEMPO) helped him realize the work situation there. He said that during one of his visits at midnight, only three out of the nine workers on duty were there. The other six apparently received overtime payment just because their names were on the list. Workers deny their high payments and say they are overworked to cover the port’s needs. Nouhoutidis says out of 350 dockers only 60 receive big money due to the risks involved. «These people climb on top of 40-meter-high containers to open them,» he said. «And if something happens and they fall, they are doomed to death.» He also blamed the minister for freezing the deal the dockers had achieved with OLP so that «120 people are hired for a specific term.»