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Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Port workers' strike has been cancelled


A day after its announcement, the strike of port workers was suspended. The executive committee of their federation decided to untie the ships from Greek ports after receiving written responses from the Ministry of Development, Competitiveness and Shipping to their requests.
"If the events that follow are not positive towards solving the problems of port workers, the federation will reconsider its position," reads the official announcement of the Pan-Hellenic Maritime Federation. It states that the Ministry responded in writing to most of their requests, but the responses "do not give the expected solutions to the just demands of workers."

Minister of Development, Anna Diamantapoulou, on her part stressed her satisfaction that "in these difficult conditions, we have managed to avoid a very dangerous crisis through a dialogue without preconditions and dogmatism." Earlier, the federation met with her and her colleague from the Ministry of Labour George Koutroumanis. The meeting was attended by representatives of seven of the fourteen unions of port workers and the Secretary General of the Federation Yiannis Halas. Some of them stated after the meeting that they had received some answers while others said they had not received anything. The position of the Ministry is that it has responded to all the demands of workers and that the dialogue will continue. The Ministry indicated that some demands are fair, but at the same time, it stressed that the law was passed and will be implemented.
The port workers' strike had already managed to cause problems in the Greek islands. Farmers from Crete had begun negotiations to find a ship to carry their produce to Piraeus. They stated that any day of strike causes damage worth 10 million euro. There were 80 trucks loaded with hundreds of tons of ripe tomatoes at the port of Hania alone.
The port workers’ decision to declare strike actions was also denounced by business representatives. The president of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises Dimitris Daskalopoulos defined the decision as a "provocation" and added, "The Pan-Hellenic Maritime Federation obviously does not care whether the ship of the country will sink. They require new privileges and want to keep all those they have, when the whole of society is making sacrifices. This is a provocation to all workers and all the families that are losing their wages and jobs." The president of the Hotel Association George Tsakiris defined the actions of port workers as a "blow and a bad sign to the international public."
At the same time, the number of tourists in Greece could reach five million after the abolition of cabotage. The long delay in the liberalization of cruise tourism and problems in Greek ports due to the strike of port workers and taxi drivers are driving away ships to other countries, depriving tourism of significant profits.
A typical example is the strike of taxi owners last summer, which hindered the arrival of cruise ships. It is one of the main reasons why this year foreign tour operators are very reluctant to book cruises in Greece.
It is believed that the country loses more than 1.1 billion euro annually due to the lack of cooperation offering the entire range of services of cruise ships. According to the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises, large companies in the sector should be able to make the Greek ports starting points of trips. Their estimates show that a tourist leaving the ship to walk around on a Greek port for several hours spends an average of 65 euro. If, however, the same ship starts its journey from Greece, the average expenditure per tourist would exceed the amount of 200 euro. Due to the fact that cabotage for cruises has not yet been completely eliminated, the contracts signed between the Greek state and foreign firms are very small in number.
This year, the bookings for ships in Greece that depart from the port of Piraeus have declined by 20-25 per cent, while the prices of cruises themselves are very low.

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