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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 February 2006, 13:11 GMT
Greek seamen ordered back to work
Harbour workers walk past a row of trucks in the port of Piraeus, near Athens
Lorries filled with fresh produce have been stranded for days
Seamen in Greece have been ordered to end a week-long strike which has caused food shortages on some Greek islands and disrupted trade.

A court order obtained by the Greek government effectively drafts the sailors into the military and forces them to return to work.

Hundreds of lorries carrying perishable goods have been stranded at Greek ports, leaving shops short of supplies.

The strike, about unemployment benefits and pensions, began last Thursday.

It led to angry clashes on Crete, the largest Greek island, at the weekend, when farmers broke into the docks and attempted to cut the mooring ropes of stranded ferries.

Shortages of medicine, fuel and food have been reported, with many islands reliant on shipping to bring in stocks because they have no airport.

People on some of the eastern-most islands have been forced to sail to Turkey to pick up supplies.

The strike has also disrupted regional trade, with hundreds of lorries being trapped at Italian ports.

Industrial strife

The seamen's union called the strike to demand higher pensions and measures to combat unemployment.

But the Greek government has refused to give ground, arguing the claims would break budget restrictions.

The BBC's Malcolm Brabant in Athens says the court ruling is likely to bring short-term relief to the islands but comes too late for the farmers whose produce has gone bad.

The court action also seems likely to stir up more industrial strife in the future, he says, with other unions planning industrial action in support of the seamen in protest at what they see as an erosion of workers' rights.

Legal experts suggest it may be difficult for the Greek authorities to enforce the order.

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