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Hundreds Of Greek Seamen Unpaid For Months

More than 26 percent of the workforce is out of a job, and youth unemployment hovers close to a staggering 60 percent. With nearly 1,000 people losing their jobs each day, hundreds of thousands of those still employed don't get regular pay.

According to one of Greece's two largest trade unions, the GSEE, about a million people in the private sector â¿¿ roughly two-thirds of all private sector employees â¿¿ have had their hours cut or get paid several months late.

For ferry crews, there's an added twist. Often hundreds of miles (kilometers) away from home and with nowhere else to go, most end up living on the ferries until they can get paid, their families surviving on money borrowed from friends and relatives.

Some quit and move to another ferry company. But that means risking their claim to back wages, which are paid if workers are willing to wait long enough.

So most just wait.

"People have families. Some have two, three kids. They're being patient, so they can get their money," said Thanassis, who works the decks on the ferry Theofilos, where he and his colleagues have been living, many unpaid in five months.

"We don't even have enough money for cigarettes anymore," said Thanassis. "The company has promised to pay but still there's nothing. We're in a desperate situation."

His shipmate Spyros hasn't been paid since November, and has been living on the ferry even though he rents an apartment in Piraeus.

"I can't go home, because the landlord won't let me in any more until I pay my rent," he said. Unable to borrow so much from friends, he now owes four months' rent.

Like the vast majority of their colleagues, Thanassis and Spyros didn't want to give their full names, fearing that speaking out would leave them blacklisted by ferry companies as troublemakers.

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