Tension escalates between staff and port authorities

A Piraeus court postponed yesterday the hearing on the injunction application by the Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) against the industrial action by workers at Greece’s biggest port. The hearing will now take place on Monday. The postponement was requested by the defense, who asked to be better informed on the content of the injunction, as well as the legal action OLP took against the dock workers. As the judicial process took place, more than 400 port employees gathered outside the court to protest the government’s decision to concede certain port services to foreign investors. The government yesterday submitted in Parliament the bill on port privatization that relates chiefly to Piraeus and Thessaloniki. The state will concede the container station operations of the two ports for a period of 50 years, according to a report accompanying the bill. The bill also provides for the voluntary exit of port workers, while there are clauses providing details about the possible transfer of employees to other state companies. Provision is made for the exit of staff up to December 31, 2009, with the cost covered exclusively by the two ports’ authorities, so it is clear it will not burden social security funds or other corporations. Earlier yesterday, representatives of the Federation of Port Employees in Greece (OMYLE) charged that the Merchant Marine Ministry had «held some consultations only for the sake of appearances,» describing the voluntary exit and transfers proposed as «duplicity.» They also told a press conference that fake data had been published about the investment to be realized in Piraeus, suggesting that the third dock which the contractor will be obliged to construct will never be built «since its construction would give rise to environmental problems, while the Municipality of Perama is also against it.» OMYLE accused the OLP administration of trying to criminalize strikes through its injunction application and legal action, adding that «the important issues are not resolved, leaving the employees unprotected.» Turkish court suspends Izmir port tender ANKARA (Reuters) – A top Turkish court has suspended a privatization tender for Izmir port, won by a consortium of Hong Kong’s Hutchison and Global Investment Holding, the union involved in the case said yesterday. Metin Bayyar, lawyer for the Liman-Is union which had appealed for last year’s tender to be cancelled, told Reuters the court had suspended the deal, not cancelled it as local media had reported earlier. Shares in Global Investment Holding fell 9 percent after the initial report and were then suspended from trade. In a short statement to the stock market, the firm said it had not been informed of developments related to the case. Hong Kong’s stock market was closed when the news broke. Legal battles over privatizations are not uncommon in Turkey. The top administrative court, the Danistay, frequently suspends privatization tenders but the pro-business government has often managed to push the deals through. The Hutchison consortium, which also includes Turkish port operator EIB, made the winning bid of $1.28 billion last May for the operating rights for 49 years to the Aegean port.