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The government of Greece has used emergency powers to force striking seamen back to work. Under a rarely deployed “civil mobilization” order, sailors were threatened with arrest and up to five years imprisonment if they did not return to their ships. This same tactic was used a month ago to break a strike by Athens metro workers.
This is a worrying development. Greece’s sailors have effectively been made into indentured labourers: civil labour contracts are now being enforced with criminal law, and full repressive force of the state. The implications of this move are particularly grim when one considers the reason the sailors struck: namely, to protest over months of unpaid wages. In effect Greece’s sailors are being coerced to work without compensation.
Meanwhile, the money that the sailors are owed continues to flow to mainly foreign boldholders – under the repayment regime imposed by the EU and the IMF. Today, it was reported that ships were sailing again in the region. An ugly, and one hopes short-lived, victory for the conservative Greek government and the German banks.
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