Greek Seafarers Union Ends Ferry Strike
Greek seamen's union PNO decided to end its ferry strike on Tuesday in return for a two-percent pay increase, its members' first raise in eight years.
The two-day strike affected multiple routes from the mainland to the Greek islands, many of which depend upon waterborne transportation for all passenger and cargo traffic. As many as 180,000 travelers were affected at the peak of the Greek tourist season, according to ferry operators, leading to missed flights, hotel cancellations and other disruptions.
The union's complain stems from the long-running difficulties affecting Greece's maritime labor sector. In the wake of the 2009 Greek financial crisis, Athens agreed to accept stringent austerity measures in exchange for a series of international bailouts. These reforms included the controversial privatization of its ports sector, tax hikes, and deep cuts to government-run pension systems affecting both public and private sector workers. In the aftermath of the crisis and response, Greek GDP declined by 25 percent and unemployment rose to a high of 26 percent.
The bailout program ended last month, and despite the hardships of years past, Greece's maritime sector has rebounded. PNO argued that its seafarers are due for a pay raise after years of stagnant wages, and the union called for a five percent increase. It initially declined an employer offer of a one percent raise this year followed by another one percent next year, and on Tuesday it ended its strike in exchange for a two percent increase until the end of 2019. In a statement, PNO leaders said that the compromise fulfills "in part the Federation's request for substantial increases."
A separate seafarers union, PEMEN, critized the PNO for ending the strike without achieving the five percent goal.