Greek seamen end strike after government order

ATHENS Nov 30 (Reuters) – Greek seamen ended on Tuesday an eight-day strike which stranded ships and passengers in ports and disrupted supplies of medicine, after the government ordered them to return to work.

It was the second time since July the ruling Socialists had used emergency powers to end a strike as unions resist austerity measures prescribed by the European Union and IMF.

“Our eight-day strike was suspended this morning,” said the Panhellenic Seamen’s Federation (PNO). “For the second time during its rule the government, incabable of finding solutions, resorted to its favourite recipe.”

Seamen would have faced prosecution had they not complied with the order to end the strike, which caused problems with supplies of food and medicines on some islands, particularly on Crete, Greece’s largest island.

Maritime Affairs Minister Yannis Diamantidis gave the order late on Monday, saying even the dead could not be shipped to and from Greek islands for their burials, after seamen decided to extend the strike launched on Nov. 23.

The seamen demanded the signing of a collective wage deal and a halt to layoffs.

Making labour contracts more flexible is a main demand of Greece’s lenders, the International Monetary Fund and euro zone countries, aimed at boosting competitiveness and securing the economic growth the country needs to repay its debts.

The PNO has more influence on passenger shipping than ocean-going tankers and cargo vessels.

Sailors protesting against the deregulation of their profession blocked ports and ships during the summer season, hurting the vital tourism sector which accounts for about a fifth of Greece’s 240 billion euro economy.

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