Piraeus port strike extended

Workers at the Piraeus Port (OLP) decided yesterday to extend a 10-day strike in opposition to a concession deal awarded to China’s Cosco, adding to goods supply problems in several key industries. The dock workers agreed to extend protest action by 48 hours before deciding tomorrow whether they will go back to work. Cosco took over the management of two of Piraeus’s cargo piers on October 1, the day workers began striking, as part of a 35-year concession deal awarded to the Beijing-based company by the previous conservative government. Workers are protesting against what they say are planned job cuts at the port. «Cosco’s plans for Piraeus involve cutbacks. Some two-thirds of staff could be dismissed by June,» a union representative told state television NET yesterday. The strike action has resulted in some 200,000 tons of goods piling up at the port, including food and medical supplies. Last week, a number of transport vessels are believed to have docked at alternative ports due to the shutdown at Piraeus. Business leaders have appealed to recently appointed Economy Minister Louka Katseli to intervene and help end the strike, which they say is «holding them hostage» as imported goods mount up at the port. Press reports said over the weekend that Cosco representatives met with senior Economy Ministry officials on Friday, where they were assured the government has no intention of pulling out of the deal despite a pre-election promise to workers that it will re-examine the concession agreement with the Chinese company if elected.