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Greek seafarers’ strike against abolition of 8-hour day cripples ferry services

GREEK seafarers crippled ferry services to the nation’s many islands today as they took strike action in defiance of a court order.

Trade unionists blockaded the main port of Piraeus, preventing anyone from boarding. Hundreds of passengers sat with luggage at the port, many blaming the ferry companies for failing to inform anyone of the planned strike.

The strike is among a series of actions planned by unions against new legislation abolishing the eight-hour day and the five-day week, as well as removing collective bargaining rights, enabling employers to “agree” terms with individual workers. 

The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) says the new law is a “declaration of war” by the New Democracy government.

“Employees will work harder, be paid less, lose quality free time. They will become hostages of big business, face new obstacles to fighting for better working conditions collectively.”

The KKE said the labour reforms were a condition of Greek access to the EU’s pandemic recovery fund. Previous EU “bailouts” of Greece were conditional on extensive privatisation and deregulation packages.

It organised further demonstrations against the law in dozens of towns and cities across Greece, calling for its withdrawal and demanding a labour movement counter-offensive to demand a shorter working week.

“Nothing happens if you remain a spectator — everything happens if you rise up,” the party said, saying strikes next week would demand a seven-hour day and a maximum working week of 35 hours.

“Today, during the so-called fourth industrial revolution, when technology is so advanced that humankind has made dozens of vaccines to protect from a previously unknown virus in a few months, the working week doesn’t decrease but increases,” the party declared. “This is what they try to call progress? It is only progress for the exploiters.”

Most unions are planning walkouts on June 10. The mariners’ union decision to proceed today despite a court ruling the strike illegal was denounced by Shipping and Island Minister Giannis Plakiotakis as “a wrong tactic which turns against passengers and doesn't serve the union movement.” He said some ferries were able to set sail after several hours’ delay, following intervention by the ministry.

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