Greek seamen extend strike

Greek maritime workers are extending a strike that has disrupted ferry services between the mainland and the country's numerous islands, their union said on Tuesday.

"We have decided to continue with another 48-hour strike for every category of vessel," the Panhellenic Seamen's Union (PNO) said in a statement.

The PNO, which is protesting against a labour reform permitting ferry owners to limit the number of crew members, is on its sixth continuous day of a strike that began Thursday.

"We also ask for collective bargaining agreements for every category of vessel and for the correction of injustices regarding pensions and taxation," the PNO said.

The union claims that unemployment in the sector has hit more than 7,000 maritime workers, out of a total of 15,000 active workers.

The merchant marine ministry counters that there are 4,200 unemployed and 17,000 active maritime workers.

Minister Costis Moussouroulis has threatened to force seamen back to work with requisition orders, while meetings between him and the union have so far proved ineffective.

As the coalition government tries to implement a harsh austerity programme demanded by international creditors in return for vital rescue loans, it has had to deal with waves of strikes.

Farmers around the country have parked their tractors near major motorways since last week, without disrupting traffic so far.

Over the past two weeks, mass transit workers and hospital doctors also intermittently abstained from their duties.

Greece's two main unions, the public sector ADEDY and the private sector GSEE, have called a general strike for February 20.

Auditors from the troika of Greece's creditors -- the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank -- are due in Athens at the end of the month to assess the reforms.