Greek dockworkers will join a 24-hour general strike June 15 to protest fresh austerity measures imposed by the Socialist government under pressure from international creditors.
The dockers unions are also threatening to step up industrial action through the summer to protest the planned privatization of publicly owned ports as part of a sale of state assets aimed at reducing Greece’s $500 billion debt burden.
By the Numbers: Europe-Asia Eastbound Container Trade
The government plans to sell its 75 percent stakes in the Piraeus and Thessaloniki port authorities by the end of the year. It will also seek buyers for its stakes of between 43 percent and 66 percent in smaller ports in 2012 and 2013.
The Union of Port Workers called the privatizations “an incomprehensible and criminal political act.”
The European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, which rescued Greece from bankruptcy last year with a $157 billion loan, are pressing Athens to implement pledged reforms, including privatizations, to secure further funding.
Dockers staged several strikes in recent weeks against the privatization program, but the government has shown no sign of backing down.
The chairman of Port Piraeus George Anomeritis said privatization is an obsolete business model and called for 51 percent of Greece’s largest port to remain under public control.
Ninety-six percent of ports in the European Union are under some form of public control, including state, regional or municipal ownership, the former merchant marine minister said.
Dock workers in Piraeus staged rolling strikes and overtime bans for more than a year to protest the privatization of container handling but China’s Cosco Pacific took over two of the port’s three terminals last June, paying around $5 billion for a 35-year operating lease.
The government canceled a tender to develop and manage container operations at Thessaloniki in April 2010 after Hong Kong’s Hutchison Ports withdrew its $4.2 billion joint bid with Greek pharmaceuticals company Alapis in response to a sharp slump in traffic during the global economic crisis.
Piraeus, which Cosco plans to transform into a major Mediterranean transshipment hub, handled 864,000 20-foot equivalent units in 2010. Thessaloniki handled just more than 273,000 TEUs.
--Contact Bruce Barnard at email@example.com.