ATHENS (Dow Jones)–Greece’s ferries remained anchored at the country’s ports Monday as dockworkers launched rolling 48-hour strike action in opposition to social security reforms and deregulation of the industry.
The strike risks cutting off the country’s dozens of inhabited islands from critical food and medical supplies, while farmers on Crete have threatened to break the strike later this week in an effort to ship their goods to the mainland.
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 healthcare spending in the sector, arguing it will lead to sharply lower quality of service for recipients.
“Greek dockworkers will strongly defend their labor and social security achievements from the government’s merciless and savage attack and will not allow for the complete extinction of a profession with thousands of years of history,” it said in a statement.
With Greece under enormous pressure from international creditors to reduce its budget deficit, the government has decided on reforms to the dockworker’s fund which is heavily subsidized by the state.
Figures from the Labor Ministry show that just over EUR1 billion of budget outlays are earmarked every year for the fund, where just 16,800 workers support 72,000 pensioners. Based on studies, benefits paid by the dockworker’s supplementary pension fund need to be reduced by 80% to make it viable, according to the ministry.
Dockworkers also oppose the liberalization of cruise ship tourism allowing non-Greek-lagged vessels to service passengers at local ports, despite criticism from the country’s tourism industry that the move does not go far enough.
-By Stelios Bouras, Dow Jones Newswires