Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Islands "suffocated" by strikes

Shipping is giving out a distress signal

The coastal shipping vessels remain docked for yet another week and the future looks uncertain, as seamen seem determined to continue their protests.

These protests have caused food and fuel supply problems in most islands. Shortages of goods are leading to price increases amidst a critical economic period for Greece.

Passenger-car ferries on the Piraeus-Heraklion, Crete line broke through the strike front. Crews set up polls on the ships and voted against the strike, while pressure for loading the trucks with perishable goods became suffocating.

Meanwhile, the shipping companies are transmitting a distress signal for their survival, since the strikes are worsening the already difficult financial situation.

The Association of Passenger Shipping Companies said "the weak economic situation of companies owning our fleet of passenger ships are compounded on a daily basis by the lack of liquidity, while the financial standing of companies gets significantly burdened by the ongoing strike in the industry. Unfortunately, the time when most companies will indicate inability to survive is drawing nearer. If passenger shipping goes bankrupt, maritime unemployment will increase with tragic results for everyone, sailors, islanders and owners alike".

PNO met last Thursday with development minister Mihalis Chrisohoidis, in a climate that made many people believe the strikes would end soon. Alas!

PNO’s executive committee met the next day and announced the continuation of protests, considering that the positions of the minister, although "their content allows for the underlying probability for meeting certain demands of the Federation in the future, it seems to ignore the sum of its claims".

Replying to the Federation’s requests, the minister stressed among other things:

1)    NAT supervision is transferred as is to the labour ministry and keeps its the autonomy with an amendment that will be submitted to parliament immediately
2)    there will be an optimal solution to the issue of NAT pensions in collaboration and consultation with the finance ministry
3)    ELOEN will be modernized
4)    the Maritime Labour Office will be strengthened with funds from the European Social Fund, to enhance the amount available to unemployed seamen.

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