Greece: Dock workers walk out over privatization

epaselect epa04774010 A worker remove rust from a ship using a water jet at the shipyard of Perama, near Athens, Greece 29 May 2015. There has been a sudden, positive change in the Brussels Group, during the final stretch in efforts to achieve an agreement between the Greek government and its partners, a source in Brussels reported on 29 May 2015. According to the source, there were only 'very few elements left' on which a substantive solution had yet to be found, so that an agreement can be reached.  EPA/YANNIS KOLESIDIS

Greek dock workers walked out on Thursday in protest at the planned privatisations of the country’s two biggest ports, a condition of a multi-billion euro bailout from international lenders.

Setting a date to submit binding bids for Piraeus (OLPr.AT) and Thessaloniki (OLTr.AT) ports is one of the actions that Athens needs to conclude its first bailout review and unlock more funds for its 86 billion euro bailout.

Shipping ministry officials said the industrial action did not appear to be disrupting traffic at the ports.

A statement from the dock workers’ labour union vowed to avert privatisations and accused the government of attempting to sell out to “foreign owned monopolies”.

“Ports should be developed by utilising own capital, through credit facilities and tapping European Union funds,” it said. Mission chiefs of lenders are in Athens to assess compliance with bailout terms.

China’s Cosco Group COSCO.UL, Danish container terminal operator APM Terminals (MAERSKb.CO) and Philippines-based International Container Terminal Services (ICT.PS), which were shortlisted in an expression of interest process, have until Oct. 30 to submit binding bids for a 51 percent stake in OLP.

But Greek government officials told Reuters this month that snap parliamentary elections on Sept. 20 had held up work and the deadline would be pushed back by about 20 days.

Greece would also push back the deadline for submission of binding bids for Thessaloniki port to the end of March from early February, the head of the country’s privatisation agency said last weekend.

Eight firms, including APM Terminals and Russia’s state railway company, have been shortlisted for the Thessaloniki port.

Privatisations have been a key part of Athens’ efforts to develop its state assets and raise money to cut Greece’s mountainous debt. The programme has raised only 3.5 billion euros since 2011 versus an original target of 50 billion euros in the 2011-2015 period.

Greece will miss this year’s target of 1.4 billion euros in privatisation receipts but a 3.7 billion euro target for next year is realistic, the head of its privatisation agency told Reuters last month.

Source: Reuters

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