One of the measures imposed by the capitalist Eurozone leaders on Greece, and shamefully accepted by the Syriza-led government, is privatisation of the ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki.
Likely bidders are Maersk, ICTSI, and the Chinese company Cosco, which already runs two of three container quays at Piraeus on a 35 year contract. Hutchison tried for Thessaloniki when there was previous talk of privatising it, in 2008.
Cosco’s contract at Piraeus has been successful for Cosco. Traffic has grown to three million teu (twenty-foot-equivalent units); Piraeus is now Europe’s eighth busiest container port; Cosco plans a fourth quay to expand to six million teu. The quay not yet contracted out at Piraeus has strong union organisation. Its traffic has stagnated while Cosco’s quays thrive with no union recognition and no collective bargaining. Workers who tentatively formed a “workers’ committee” were sacked.
The Cosco workers are mostly employed by subcontractors or subcontractors of subcontractors. Most are on 24 hour call, with only a few hours’ notice of shifts, no overtime pay, and paid around €600 ($900) a month.
They have no meal breaks, not even toilet breaks: managers tell them to urinate into the sea or take cups with them. “Bouncers” patrol the quays.