NEWS

Seamen under orders

The government yesterday ordered the civil mobilization of seamen, after their federation voted to extend until early Monday a nationwide strike that began last Tuesday and which has wreaked havoc in coastal shipping. Civil mobilization is a strike-breaking measure in which protesters are subject to military regulations and face court martial if they do not return to work. It was not clear when ships would sail as the seamen’s federation met late into last night. The strike has cut off the islands, stranding thousands of travelers who want to return to the mainland and ruining the three-day Pentecost weekend for tens of thousands of Greeks and tourists who wanted to get to the islands. Supplies have been running low and fresh produce has not been able to get to Greek and European markets. Officials also fear tourism will be devastated by the bad publicity at the start of the season. The Panhellenic Seamen’s Federation (PNO) initially resisted the government’s order, which was made shortly after the PNO board voted by 12 votes to two and one abstention to extend the strike. «All these days during the seamen’s strike, the government exhausted all possibilities for dialogue, effectively meeting their demands,» Telemachos Hytiris, a government spokesman announced at 6 p.m. «Unfortunately, today PNO’s leadership chose to continue a strike that harms the country’s economy, tourism, trade, the free movement of citizens even in cases of health problems. Out of a sense of responsibility to society as a whole, the government decided on the civil mobilization of the strikers,» he said. The dispute arose over the government’s reneging on an agreement to raise pensions to 70 percent of active salaries from the 60 percent they are today. Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Anomeritis and Labor Minister Dimitris Reppas agreed to raise the pensions from next January. But National Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis balked at an additional annual cost of 146 million euros when the seamen’s fund is already bailed out by the State to the tune of 470 million euros (160 billion drachmas) per year. The government offered to raise pensions over five years. The seamen responded they wanted the increase spread over four years instead, with an increase of 5 percent next year, 3 percent in 2004 and 1 percent each in 2005 and 2006. The Left Coalition and DIKKI parties condemned the civil mobilization.