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Striking port employees at Piraeus and Thessaloniki return to work

Striking port employees at Piraeus and Thessaloniki return to work
Piraeus and Thessaloniki port employees have 'suspended' their rolling strike action launched on May 26.

The decision to suspend the action, which has especially hit Greece's cruise sector came in the wake of vague promises by Shipping and Island Policy minister, Thodoris Dritsas, that 'jobs and syndicate rights will be protected' under legislation covering the privatisation of the ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki.

The promises were made in a letter to the Federation of Hellenic Port Employees (OMYLE) outlining legislation set to be tabled in parliament on June 24.

It also came as commercial chambers, ship and customs agents based in northern Greece filed court action in Piraeus against OMYLE alleging the strikes are illegal and 'have killed commercial activity in the port of Thessaloniki'.
Piraeus and Thessaloniki port employees were striking in protest of the sale of the Piraeus Port Authority (PPA) to China's Cosco Group by the country's privatisation agency, Taiped. The €668.5bn concession deal signed early April includes a 'zero employment clause'. It also includes a pledge by Cosco to undertake €300m investment in port upgrading, almost half of which earmarked to go on improving cruise infrastructure.

Taiped is set to call for binding bids for the Thessaloniki Port Authority in September, and minister Dritsas is determined this deal will not have a 'zero employment' clause and to date efforts by the minister to get the one in the PPA deal re-written have failed.

Speaking in parliament, June 24, Dritsas confirmed the port workers 'had postponed' the action. Dritsas, who is against the deal in its present form, also admitted the strike action's impact on tourism and cruising, but pointed out the port staff understood this and in fact had called off the action in Piraeus on June 18 to handle cruise ships.

He told parliament, 'over a period of 18 hours the port handled eight cruise ships involving some 14,000 passengers homeporting.'

Theodore Kontes, president of the Greek Association of Cruise Ship Owners and Maritime Agencies (EEKFN) said the industry hoped the agreement between Taiped and Coscois is finally ratified. He said to date the industry has been able to cope, 'just', but adding, 'with the cruise season now getting underway this will quickly change if the strike action continues.'
He said: 'we will be okay this year, but the damage done to the port's and to Greece's image will be great if the action continues. We already know of a number of lines are looking at their 2017/2018 programmes which presently involve Piraeus and the Greek islands.'