Greek sailors begin two-day strike

Greek sailors begin two-day strike

Greek sailors on Tuesday began a two-day strike against government reforms, halting ferry connections to the islands ahead of the Orthodox Easter holidays and disrupting the export of agricultural produce.

The sailors’ union Pno said no ferries would leave Piraeus and the neighbouring ports of Lavrion and Rafina, all near Athens, three weeks after a previous work stoppage. Greek Orthodox Easter this year falls on April 15.

The walkout will also affect the transport of agricultural goods mainly from the island of Crete whose economy depends on tourism and crop sales.

Weighed down by massive debt, Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos is imposing sweeping reforms to cut state spending by about 12 billion euros by 2014 to meet conditions under an EU-IMF debt rescue.

The sailors’ union is notably opposed to a bill adopted recently that would deregulate sea cruises, as well as a health bill that is to be voted by parliament on Tuesday.

That bill would merge part of the seamen’s health insurance with health funds managed by a new agency.

The union has organised several strikes since 2010 and the start of the financial crisis and the austerity policies demanded by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Greece has a total public debt of over 350 billion euros ($461 billion).