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Passenger ships will remain tied up in ports because of the continuing workers’ strike

23 November 2010 / 18:11:22  GRReporter
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Workers on passenger ships in Greece will continue with repeated 24-hour strikes until their demands are met. The negotiations between their federation and the union of ship owners did not lead to the signing of a collective labour agreement and as result no passenger ship sailed today. They all remained tied to the ports and with doors closed.

The main demands of the ship workers’ federation are no redundancies for workers of any specialty in order to comply with the law for 10 months of employment and an Independent Fund for Unemployed Sailors to be found. It is unacceptable according to them to cut the pensions of former sailors. They also noted that there is a need for improvement of education in the field of shipping.

"I am retired and received 1700 euros and now I get 1300 euros and I hope that my pension will not be cut further. I have 37 years of experience in the Navy - I worked 18 years on ships that make trips abroad and another 15 years on the lines that travel in the country. I went everywhere, only I have never been in Bulgaria. The seamen work is very hard - it starts at 5 in the morning and ends late at night. Currently, Bulgaria is probably better than Greece, but anywhere is better than Greece," said a pensioner who came to support his colleagues.

Several middle-aged workers were standing near the ship Poseidon. It is closed today but otherwise it travels to the islands of the Saronic Gulf - Aegina, Poros and Angistri. They commented that they will stay until the evening because they have to keep lest passengers enter the ship, although they said that no passengers came since morning as they were clearly aware of the strike. Besides the few ship workers, on the docks before the two ships – Poseidon and Fedra – are the members of their families – wives who sat on the passenger seats and talked, and some young people at the closed doors, members of the Communist Party, that came to support ship workers.

Among the strikers is one of the prominent trade unionists of PEMEN Mr. Nikos Petrou, who said that the strikers are members of the union alliances PEMEN-STEFENSON and their main demand is to keep their jobs and oppose the government policy that they consider anti-social. "In particular, what we demand is to sign a collective labour agreement that meets the needs of ship workers and covers all ship workers, not to cancel the deal for the ten months of work and to block the cabotage removal," said Mr. Petrou.

"Ship tycoons want crews of no trade union rights, to pay them a miserable wage, as in China for example. They get workers from Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Romania, Philippines - crews that have no certain rights and that do not work under the collective agreement. In a TV interview the President of the union of ship owners presented us like some sort of highly paid workers. But it should be clear that ship workers are paid for 18 hours of work because the ship worker is at work all the hours the ship is operating. The ship worker has to respond to any needs as to the crew safety and the passengers’ security. The work on ships lasts from 6 am to 11 pm when the ship lands. The ships travel every day and there are no working days for the sailors – when the ship sails, the sailor must be at work," said the unionist adding that the ship workers salaries are low compared with their working hours and working conditions. He also said that there are labour accidents in summer because of the intensive work and due to the not so far best conditions in which ship workers can relax.

As to the salaries, he explained that this depends on the position of the ship worker, of course, but noted that there are salaries that do not meet the reality. "A sailor's salary is 900 euros, but with allowances for overtime work, which in practice are not paid, it could reach 2000-2500 euros. But this is not a salary that meets the time worked," said Mr. Petrou.

I left the port and saw a few foreigners across the road that toted their suitcases and thought they would go. The eateries around were almost empty. A girl who works in one of them said that it is full of customers in ordinary days but when the port workers or the workers of the  electric train, which goes to the port of Piraeus, are on strike, the snacks shop is half-empty. At the same time, sailors will push their demands to be implemented, which, as they themselves say, are linked to "the needs of the times in which we live."


Tags: Passanger shipsStrikeSailorsPortPiraeusWagesPensionsShip tycoonscabotageCollective labour agreement
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