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Greek domestic seafarers win pay rise after strike

On 20 August Greece completed a three-year eurozone bailout programme designed to help it cope with the fallout from its debt crisis and in the process, according to some "saved the Euro".

What this means is uncertainty believe many Greeks with few believing their lives are going to improve or that the country’s prospects will be akin to those of other bailed-out eurozone states.

Indeed, within days of the government’s much touted “return to normalcy” unions around the country were in the throes of making up for lost ground, led by the seafarers.

Indeed, seafarers working on the vessels serving Greece’s vital domestic ferry network have already won a pay rise after they launched a 48-hour strike 3 September, leaving ferries moored at ports around the country.

The seafarers were demanding higher wages and restored labour rights. An original 24-hour stoppage was extended when the Panhellenic Seamens Federation (PNO) said negotiations with employers over a new collective agreement had broken down.

As the peak tourist season was coming to an end the action left those depending on the country's vast ferry network stranded, after ferry owners rejected seafarer demands for a 5% pay rise. Owners had claimed the strike action left some 180,000 passengers, 50,000 cars and over 3,000 trucks stranded.

A meeting 31 August between representatives of the PNO and the association of coastal shipowners (SEEN) on a new collective labour contract proved fruitless. The PNO rejected the shipowners offer of a 1% raise in seafarers’ salaries as of September and another 1% from June 2019.

After both sides mulled the offer, seafarer called off the strike action when it was agreed owners would pay increases of 2%, retroactive to January 1, 2018. A new round of negotiations will commence later in the year for 2019 pay rates.

The pay issue was just one of 14 demands of the PNO, that include tax breaks, pensions and crew complements. However, 12 of the demands are actually outside the owners control and come under the realm of other competent bodies, including the Shipping & Island Policy ministry, which has just had a new minister installed, Fotis Kouvelis.

Shipowners maintain most of the demands can only be solved as "part of a general change in government policy for workers and pensioners".

The PNO said in a statement: “For eight consecutive years, seamen have not received an even a one-euro increase".

"The ‘end of the bailout’ and ‘fair growth’, which the government refers to, translates to more aggressiveness from shipowners who refuse to renew wage agreements including raises,” said Pemen, the union which represents marine engineers, said in a statement.

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