The Greek seamen’s union federation PNO on Monday said it will continue strike action after the breakdown of talks with Shipping and Island Policy Minister Panagiotis Kouroumblis to end their 48-hour strike. The strike began at 6 p.m. on Sunday and is scheduled to end at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
PNO representatives had earlier met the minister, following a rally and march to the ministry, in order to discuss the problems faced by sailors, as well as the problems created as a result of their strike action. There are currently thousands of school children stranded on Greek islands, unable to return from planned school trips, and farmers are unable to send their produce to market. Another 24-hour strike by seamen is scheduled for December 8.
In statements after the meeting, Kouroumblis noted the problem with the school children stranded on Crete, as well as the potential loss of European market share for farmers, saying that neither PNO nor the government could just ignore these problems. He said he had asked PNO to set a date to discuss social insurance and pension issues with the labor minister within the week, in order to find solutions. “The assurances they were given by the government do not give PNO room to continue the strike. I await its decision and, based on this, I will meet my own responsibilities to the children and the farmers,” the minister said.
He also sought to reassure PNO that the government would not bow to pressure to further increase taxes on sailors, making them equal to other categories of employees, and that the current 10% and 15% tax rates will remain.
PNO’s Secretary General Yiannis Chalas declined to comment on the results of the meeting, while noting that there was no firm commitment from the minister. He noted that the stranded school children “could be sent home in two airplanes.” Other trade unionists also pointed out that Kouroumblis had been unable to make any firm promises on the issues of the strike.