OLP workers continue to block port

Workers at the Piraeus Port (OLP) will strike for the next three days, extending a 13-day walkout in protest at cargo management services having been contracted out to China’s Cosco. The port will remain shut through the end of the week, with workers also planning to abstain from work over the weekend. «We call on the government to freeze the establishment of Cosco,» the union said in a statement, adding that the takeover «must stop.» OLP’s 1,500 employees, who are demanding the annulment of the contract, argue that Cosco plans to reduce the number of jobs by two-thirds as of June next year. Recently appointed Economy, Competitiveness and Merchant Marine Minister Louka Katseli met with the striking workers late yesterday in a bid to end the dispute but no agreement was reached and talks are expected to continue, according to a ministry source. PASOK had promised workers during its recent election campaign that it would reassess the contract signed by the previous conservative government. Cosco, Asia’s third-biggest container terminal operator, won a concession to run container operations at Piraeus’s Pier II and construct and run a new Pier III. Labor opposition to the 35-year concession to Cosco has resulted in more than a year of strikes as well as a refusal to work overtime and weekends until April this year. Meanwhile, the Athens Association of Commercial Agents (AACA) said yesterday that consumers will be forced to foot the bill for the strike action. Ioannis Papageorgakis, president of AACA, said that a number of ships are being forced to dock at other ports and goods are then being transported by road to Athens in a costly affair that will be rolled over onto customers. Some 7,000 containers have been taken to other ports, according to OLP, while another 6,000 are stranded at the port. The strike is also preventing exporters from reaching their markets at a time when competition has increased due to the crisis, he added.