Greece: Travellers stranded as ferry crew strike over pay

Greek sailors halt traffic as they demand a five percent rise in wages after eight years of austerity measures.

24-hour strike of Greek seamen at the port of Piraeus
Tourism is a key source of revenue in Greece, with record arrivals expected this year [Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters]

Thousands of travellers have been stranded on Greece’s islands due to a strike by ferry crews seeking higher pay, tax breaks and the restoration of labour rights after the country’s third bailout programme expired last month.

The 24-hour strike on Monday was organised by the main crew union, Panhellenic Seamen’s Organization (PNO), which said in a statement that negotiations with the sector’s employers over a new collective agreement had not borne fruit.

Ferry companies have said that the strike would affect about 180,000 people who booked to travel to or from the islands, which include many of Greece’s most popular tourist destinations such as Mykonos, Santorini and Crete.

Many islands have no air connections with the rest of the country.

On Monday morning, traffic was slow at Piraeus port, with shipping companies forced to reschedule many trips.

Unions are seeking a five percent pay increase after an eight-year freeze due to the country’s debt crisis, but employers are offering one percent.

The strike is the first since Greece and its European partners celebrated, on August 20, the end of the country’s catastrophic economic crisis, following three international bailouts and eight years of deep public spending cuts.

The left-led government has pledged to reverse unpopular labour reforms and increase the minimum wage.

Although budget cuts remain on the menu, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras pledged on Friday to increase the minimum wage, which had fallen to 586 euros ($680) a month from around 760 euros ($882) before the crisis took hold.

The PNO will meet later on Monday to decide whether to extend the one-day strike, which will normally run until early Tuesday.

Passenger traffic at ports and airports picks up during the summer, which is the top tourism season for the Mediterranean country.

Nearly 32 million tourists are expected to visit Greece this year, according to tourism industry officials.

Source: News Agencies