Seamen ordered to return to work

Sailors who have been on strike for the last week are to be forced back to work after the government issued civil mobilization orders to prevent further disruption to travel and the shipment of goods after the seamen called a new 48-hour strike. Maritime Affairs Minister Yiannis Diamantidis took the rare step of issuing the order – it is only the third time the measure has been used since 2002 – after the seamen were unable to reach a compromise with shipowners in a labor dispute. The Panhellenic Seamen’s Federation (PNO) called a new 48-hour strike after failing to find common ground with the Union of Marine Enterprises (EEN). The seamen are demanding a new collective contract for 2011 and job security. PNO announced the strike after Diamantidis had intimated that the government might resort to the rarely used method of enlisting strikers as army conscripts so it can order them back to work. «All the options for confronting the problem are open,» Diamantidis told Skai TV yesterday morning. He said that it was unacceptable for the country to be «cut in half» by the strike, which has prevented farmers on Crete from being able to transport their produce to markets and has hampered islanders and travelers in their efforts to journey to and from the mainland. Cretan farmers welcomed the move to force the sailors back to work as they estimate that they have suffered damages of 200 million euros as a result of being unable to ship their fruit and vegetables to the mainland. Diamantidis had earlier brought PNO and EEN to the negotiating table, suggesting that the strike be suspended for three days so that talks between the two sides could take place. Sources said that EEN was open to the suggestion as long as it could raise several issues of its own with the ministry.

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