Government tries to end port strike

Intense consultations are taking place on how to end Piraeus port employees’ work-to-rule action in protest at government plans to privatize some port services, especially container terminals. At the same time, the action, in which workers refuse to work overtime or on weekends, has led to great amounts of products, especially industrial ones, being stuck in the port’s offloading areas or awaiting shipment in other ports. According to sources, at least 25 cargo-carrying ships have been unable to offload their cargo to Piraeus, Greece’s largest port. There is also the prospect of foreign ports imposing a 15 percent surcharge on ships unable to leave for Piraeus. Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis and Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis met for the second time to discuss the issue of port privatization. There was no official announcement, but inside sources have talked about friction between the two ministers, with Alogoskoufis critical of Kefaloyiannis’s handling of the issue. In any case, it will remain up to the merchant marine minister to resolve the conflict and push for the privatization of port services. In case of a deadlock, an interministerial Privatizations Committee will meet. Late yesterday, another meeting was held, this time under the auspices of the International Maritime Union. Merchant Marine Ministry officials appeared confident that the privatization program will be implemented as planned and stressed, once again, that no jobs will be lost as a result. Actually, they said earlier this week, foreign investment in the ports will result in 4,500 new jobs being created over the next two years. Piraeus Prefect Yiannis Michas, in a letter sent yesterday to the Piraeus Port Authority, calls for a six-month moratorium on the decision to privatize port services in order to ensure an uninterrupted flow of goods in the weeks leading to the Christmas holiday and to allow for an in-depth debate.

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