Defiant seamen to go ahead with 2-day strike

Seamen were adamant late on Monday that they would go ahead with a 48-hour strike on Tuesday and Wednesday — action that will keep all ferries moored in port, disrupting the Easter holiday plans of thousands of Greeks and harming the prospects of hundreds of businesses.

Officials of the Panhellenic Seamen?s Federation (PNO) said they had not changed their stance despite an overture by Development and Merchant Marine Minister Anna Diamantopoulou for further talks and appeals by travel operators and hoteliers who had hoped to make some money during the week of Orthodox Easter and by farmers who will lose tons of perishable goods due for delivery by sea.

Administrative Reform Minister Dimitris Reppas took a harder stance than his colleague Diamantopoulou, warning PNO that the government might issue a civil mobilization order that would force the seamen back to work.

Sources told Kathimerini, however, that authorities want to avoid such extreme tactics so soon before elections, which are expected to be held on May 6.

The seamen are angry over cuts to state benefits and pensions, and they oppose the incorporation of their social insurance fund into Greece?s main healthcare provider, the National Organization for the Provision of Health Services (EOPYY).

The decision to press on with the two-day strike was taken despite disagreements within the ranks of PNO and amid pressure by members of the Communist Party-affiliated labor union PAME to avoid compromising with the government.

In a related development, drivers of intercity coaches (KTEL) said they would hold a 24-hour strike on Thursday but it remained unclear whether their action would disrupt services. Most of the drivers own the coaches they drive, or shares in KTEL, so only a small percentage of drivers are planning to walk off the job. Protesters object to salary cuts and the dismissal of colleagues.