PM delivers stark warning to strikers after ship impasse

Fresh from his government’s eight-day standoff with striking sailors, the prime minister warned yesterday that he is not willing to make any compromises in labor relations even though other unions are planning industrial action in the weeks to come. Premier Costas Karamanlis spoke to the New Democracy central committee yesterday as the ruling conservatives gathered in Athens to vote in a new party secretary to replace Evangelos Meimarakis, who was appointed defense minister in the recent reshuffle. It was apparent from his speech, however, that Karamanlis had more than just internal party matters on his mind. «The causes of one group cannot be pursued at the cost of another,» said Karamanlis in a clear reference to the sailors’ strike, which left farmers around the country exasperated as their produce rotted away while many islands ran desperately short of supplies. «The government is not and cannot be hesitant and indifferent to extreme or violent behavior and possible dangers,» the prime minister added. During their strike, seamen clashed with farmers and riot police after refusing to allow ships to be loaded with goods following a breakdown in discussions with the government over improved benefits. Greece’s two largest unions, the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE) and the Civil Servants’ Union (ADEDY), have planned a 24-hour general strike on March 15 and a four-hour work stoppage on Tuesday in protest at the government’s labor policies. Bank workers have also embarked on a series of strikes. Wanting to make it clear that his government was not willing to compromise, Karamanlis warned that unionists could not pursue their goals «in a manner that puts other people’s lives or property in danger.» Meanwhile, the central committee voted Athens MP Lefteris Zagoritis as the new ND party secretary. Zagoritis won 402 votes (71.3 percent) to beat off the competition from the only other candidate, Katerina Papacosta, who only gained 70 votes (12.4 percent).

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