ECONOMY

Port action may hit prices

Merchants are concerned about possible price increases on a series of goods as employees at the Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) continued to refuse to work overtime and on weekends in protest at the government’s decision to sell some port services to private capital through an international competition. The port workers’ work-to-rule action has also had a negative effect on the port’s image at a time when the government is trying to attract foreign capital to help modernize and develop the country’s biggest ports. During the first 10 days of the work-to-rule protest, OLP has recorded a 2.5 million shortfall in revenues. A total of 25 container ships as well as bulk carriers carrying 17,000 cars were rerouted to other ports, while container loading has dropped from a daily average of 3,500 to 4,000 to 800 to 900, with a trend toward further decline. Officials at the Piraeus Commercial Association told Kathimerini that, if the work to rule continues, there will be shortages in the market, leading to price hikes. «The effort to maintain the scandalous advantages that 300 port workers enjoy is stifling the market, hurting the Greek consumer and is essentially stalling the effort to attract investments worth hundreds of millions of euros that will create 4,500 new jobs at ports over the next two years,» Merchant Marine Ministry officials told Kathimerini. Yesterday’s meeting between OLP management and port workers ended after 30 minutes with no result, as unionists took a hard line. OLP Managing Director Nikos Anastassopoulos made it clear that selling part of the port services to private investors is an irreversible decision and that jobs will be safe. «We have committed ourselves to do what we can for the best possible solution to employee concerns. However, unionists deny the management’s, and the majority shareholder’s, right to decide. Yet, we still leave the door open to dialogue,» he said. Anastassopoulos said he asked the stevedores to stop their work to rule while the first phase of the tender for international competition is implemented. «There is a six-month gap between the first and second phases, ample time for a dialogue on all outstanding issues,» he said. OLP management is considering resorting to the courts to force workers to suspend their action. The workers’ union, on their part, insists they will not stop action unless management decides to call off the tender.