Greek dockworkers will push ahead with a two-day strike starting Tuesday, despite pleas from government and sector officials to call off the protest, which is seen as dealing a blow to the country’s vital tourism industry.
Dockworkers said Monday they will go ahead with the walkout, initially announced last week, which is expected to bring the country’s ferry services to a standstill ahead of the Orthodox Easter Greece celebration this Sunday.
Dockworkers are protesting against social-security reforms and plans to deregulate the industry, which contributes 16% to the country’s annual gross domestic product and roughly 18% of jobs.
The Panhellenic Seamen’s Federation is opposing a government move to merge its supplementary pension fund with a unified auxiliary fund and implement stricter control of health-care spending in the sector, arguing it will lead to sharply lower quality of service for recipients.
The reforms are part of Greece’s austerity commitments to international lenders needed to help recently clinch a second €130 billion (around $170 billion) bailout.
Deputy Tourism Minister Giorgos Nikitiadis called on the dockworkers to call off the strike Monday and consider whether they have the right to harm the economy, create problems for thousands of businesses and risk the stability of hundreds of thousands of jobs in the sector.
“In these times, the weight of responsibility is very big, in line with the anger of the vast majority of islanders and those working in tourism,” he said.
Prime Minister Lucas Papademos on Sunday met the country’s development, transport, labor and health ministers on the dispute and said the government will protect the public interest and secure transportation services for passengers and goods, without providing any more details.
In a statement, the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises, known as SETE, said the union group needs to understand that these sorts of protests “destroy the country.”