Ships lift anchors

Ships started sailing again in Greek waters yesterday after seamen ended an eight-day strike that cut off vital supplies to many parts of the country as the government weighed the results of a major head-on clash with workers. More than 10 ferries loaded with 707 trucks left Piraeus for Crete, the Aegean islands and the Dodecanese by yesterday afternoon transporting food and medical supplies to some of the islands that had been cut off during the protest action. Order returned to Piraeus, Greece’s largest port, where unionists clashed with police on Wednesday in a bid to prevent trucks from boarding ferries even after the government had ordered them back to work with the help of a military law. The sailors did not have their economic demands met but claimed to be abandoning their strike action «due to their sensitivity to the public.» The strike created tensions between the sailors and other workers groups, such as farmers and drivers, whose businesses were crippled by the eight-day walkout. Talks between seamen and the Merchant Marine Ministry concerning their economic demands, which included better unemployment and pension benefits, are expected to resume soon. The government is assessing the results of its clash with the sailors as it prepares to push through a series of controversial labor reforms in coming months. Nikos Karahalios, New Democracy’s secretary for political planning, said the events «should not place in danger our broad social partnership and result in a split between New Democracy and components of the social partnership that led to the (election) victory in 2004.» As tempers cooled between sailors and riot police, the country’s politicians stepped into the ring. PASOK attacked the government for its handling of the affair but later distanced istelf from one of its own MPs, Manolis Stratakis, who said ships flying foreign flags should have been used to sidestep striking workers. Stratakis had served as a deputy transport minister under a previous PASOK government. Government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros responded by describing the suggested solution as an outrageous picket-breaking measure.

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