Greek ferry seamen extend 6-day strike

Seamen extend strike that has left Greek islands without ferries for 6 days

Associated Press
Greece orders striking ferry crews back to work
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Ferries are docked during the fifth day of a strike by Greek dock workers in the port of Piraeus, near Athens, Monday, Feb. 4, 2013. The strike, which began Thursday, is demanding back pay for the workers from ship owners, a collective wage agreement, and an end to undocumented and uninsured employees. The workers also want the government to cancel a plan to regulate the minimum number of dock workers required in each crew, saying that would lead to layoffs. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Greek seamen on Tuesday defied government warnings and extended for another 48 hours a series of rolling strikes that have left Greece's islands without ferry links with the mainland for six days.

Ships will remain tied up in port until early Friday, while the seamen's union will meet anew to debate whether to further extend their walkout. The union is angry at pay arrears and government austerity policies.

The strike has already had an impact on islanders, many of whom rely on the mainland for basic everyday supplies. On Monday, an island trade and commerce association warned that the seamen's walkout poses a substantial threat to small businesses in the archipelago, which already face severe pressure due to Greece's three-year financial crisis.

The conservative-led coalition government has implied that if the seamen's strike drags on, it will force them back to work with a civil mobilization order. Last month, it employed that tactic to end a lengthy walkout by Athens' underground rail workers.

Greek unions have held a wave of strikes to protest the harsh austerity measures taken since 2010 to secure vital international rescue loans. The repeated income cuts and tax hikes deepened a recession already in its sixth year, amid soaring unemployment that has left more than 26 percent of the workforce without a job.

Farmers are threatening to block highways across the country to protest new tax laws, while state media have been on strike for the past two days.

Meanwhile, Greece on Tuesday saw its borrowing costs dip slightly in an auction of 26-week Treasury bills. The public debt management agency said it raised €812 million ($1.1 billion) at an interest rate of 4.27 percent — compared to 4.3 percent in last month's auction.

Although unable to raise money by selling long-term debt, Greece maintains a market presence through regular short-term Treasury bill auctions.

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