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Greek government aims to 're-shape shipping' in the country

Greek government aims to 're-shape shipping' in the country
Greek Shipping and Island Policy minister, Thodoris Dritsas has reiterated the government's aim is to “re-shape shipping” to reflect the national character of the country’s shipping industry and this includes a new collective labour agreement.

Dritsas, an MP for Piraeus, called on the Union of Greek Shipowners (UGS) and the Panhellenic Seamens Federation (PNO) to sign a new collective agreement, which has been on the shelf for months.

Indeed, Greece could be heading for an even more turbulent time on the labour front as the leftist government is set to tell the country’s creditors it cannot comply with labour reforms demanded by the IMF as condition of its support for the country’s third bailout. The government considers the IMF’s demands as a ban on the right for workers to negotiate wages and conditions on a collective basis.

Labour Minister George Katrougalos says the government will fight to preserve collective bargaining, describing the IMF as “an extreme player”. Katrougalos said: “We want to reinstate collective bargaining because it is the core of the European social model.”

Both the EU and the IMF say an inflexible labour force has helped to make Greece uncompetitive, contributing to its economic malaise, but the IMF is seen as especially opposed to any effort to restore collective bargaining.

Shipping’s Dritsas says the Ministry, the UGS and the PNO have been working towards this goal, saying, "I hope we are at the beginning of the end" and a new agreement "will not only regulate salary issues, but set a minimum, to dramatically increase the complement of Greek seamen working on Greek ships".

Dritsas said "the sea, seamanship, and Greek sailors are more than a professional and productive activity, not just from the foreign currency and economic perspective, but also as culture".

He noted Greece has not got many “firsts” in areas of economic productive dynamism, but "it is the first global maritime power” added "Greek shipping is mainly about sailors".

UGS president, Theodore Veniamis says a collective agreement has to be based on realism. Veniamis reiterated the position of Greek shipowners saying: "At a time when our country and our society is plagued by unemployment, particularly among young people, we have expressed our desire many times to revive Greek seamanship, which the Greek owners appreciate and trust. At the same time competitiveness has always been, and still is, a decisive factor for the survival of the Greek ship in the international maritime arena so that it will remain a strategic pillar and growth driver of the Greek economy.

“Therefore, a prerequisite for signing the collective labour agreement is that it would be based on new realistic terms, taking into account the conditions in the Greek and international maritime labour market.”

PNO secretary general, John Halas, scoffed at Dritsas and Veniamis, saying he “could not see go” for the proposed -framework to increase employment in Greek vessels.

In a statement Halas noted the position of seafarers’ unions is contrary to the government's intentions and the shipowners proposals on the table.

Indeed, Halas said the “proposal raises a serious issue regarding Greek legislation” noting that in countries like Greece, where there is a collective agreement providing better terms than the international norm, these conditions are not to be tampered with and weakened. Further, Halas maintains the MLC [Maritime Labour Convention] is “clear in its preamble and its text indicating local agreements cannot be changed for the worse”.

Halas said the PNO has referred the whole matter to lawyers.