Defiant dockers vow to continue overtime ban

Northern Greece-based exporters yesterday were describing as explosive the situation resulting from the continuing refusal by dockers to work overtime and the lockout by truck owners. Losses have now become enormous for production, commerce, services and employment, as well as the competitiveness of the economy as a whole, the Northern Greece Exporters’ Association (SEVE) said in a memorandum to the ministries of Economy, Transport and Merchant Marine. Port workers at Piraeus and Thessaloniki container terminals have already entered their fifth month of industrial action against government plans to enter into long-term concession agreements with private operators, which are hoped to attract much needed investment. They fear the move will lead to job cuts and to the full privatization of the ports. According to provisional data released by the National Statistics Service (NSS) yesterday, Greek exports were down 13.3 percent year-on-year in March, the third straight month of decline. Imports also fell, resulting in a 6.5 percent decline in the country’s record-high current account deficit. Separately, an evaluation committee yesterday opened the two bids for the Piraeus container terminal on Friday, submitted by China’s Cosco Pacific and Hutchison Port Holdings, which are large international operators. «The fact that the two bidding companies participate in the management of a combined total of 65 ports worldwide is very encouraging,» said a Piraeus Port Authority (OLP) source. OLP said Hutchison Port Holdings had teamed up with Greek pharmaceutical firm Alapis in the bid. «Hutchison Port Holdings in a joint venture with Alapis filed an application for the concession of docks II and III of the Cargo Station of Piraeus Port,» OLP said in a statement. The government holds stakes of higher than 70 percent in each port. OLP has a market value of $935.3 million, while Thessaloniki is worth $319 million. But workers have vowed to continue their industrial action. «This development has raised many unanswered questions. No matter how hard they try to lead the port to a non-transparent sellout, they will get the answers they deserve,» said a dockers’ union official.