After an initial 48-hour strike froze all Greek ports in their tracks, an extension of 48 hours has cut off activity until at least December 6. The strike is the seafarers’ protest in response to the imminent cutting of their long-standing special tax status, and other intended changes to insurance rights, labour, retirement age and pensions.
The Panhellic Seamen’s Federation (PNO), who called the extension of the strike, has warned that its 13-member unions may even look to extend the walkout if a deal cannot be reached. This follows the PNO’s announcement that it will participate in the nationwide private sector 24-hour strike that is intended for December 8. According to the PNO, it has no intention to back down until the government obliges.
The planned changes to the seafarers’ tax status are being implemented by Greece’s creditors, known as the 'troika’, which consists of the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The EC, ECB and IMF demand several alterations to taxation legislation, as part of the changes Greece has to implement for further financial support.
The Crew Union of the Tug Boats has also chosen to take part in the protests, which has in turn directly affected ports in Eleusis, Pachi, Megara and Aspropyrgos. During this strike period, vessels cannot berth, shift or sail.
The special tax status of seafarers, which currently costs the state EUR 91.2m a year, is set to be either reduced or scrapped entirely. The PNO claims that seafarer’s taxable income will “go up to a rate of 45%; even more if the special solidarity levy is added”.
“The seafarer’s profession is being led on the path to complete extinction,” said the PNO.
This strike is comparable to protests in South Korea in October 2016 that resulted in a devastating effect on their handling capacity.