The Chinese Embassy in Athens has filed a complaint with the Greek government concerning increasing pressure on the part of disgruntled port workers on the port's Chinese management. The compliant was after port workers blockaded, May 31, the two container terminals run by China’s Cosco under a 35-year concession agreement.

The blockade was ultimately lifted June 2 after the action was declared illegal by a Piraeus court following an appeal by the companies who supply the work force to Piraeus Container Terminal. However, the industrial action is likely to continue, with port worker unions threatening yet another blockade of the country’s main port. The port's management is once again expected to resort to justice against the strike, requesting it be deemed illegal. At issue is the demand by port workers that more staff be hired and a raise of as much as 25% as part of a new collective labour agreement.

The embassy complaint had called on the government to protect China’s significant investments in Greece and came after a relative small number of unionists prevented Cosco employees from getting to work on May 31 by blocking the two entrance gates to the terminals and the company’s management building at the port. Some 1,000 trucks, 800 customs officials, 100 employees of major shipping company agencies, 300 workers at Piraeus Container Terminal and 1,300 port workers contracted by other companies were prevented from entering.

Chinese Ambassador to Greece Zou Xiaoli and the Piraeus Port Authority (PPA) ceo Fu Chengqiu reportedly met with Shipping and Island Policy minister Panagiotis Kouroumplis, but were unable to secure the mobilisation of the port police to end the blockade and allow workers into the facility.

The protest by the unionists, the majority of whom belong to outside contractors, created serious problems in the port’s operation and also affected sensitive cargo like shipments of medicine, according to reports from the PPA, which is majority owned by Cosco.

PPA management sources say they expect the Shipping minister “to fulfill the pledges he gave last week to the Chinese ambassador and to enforce legality.” The ministry says legality will be preserved, but in all directions.

Filed: 2018-06-04