NEWS

Still no gas, as truck drivers put foot down

Hopes that gas stations would begin serving customers again yesterday after the government issued a civil mobilization order to force truckers back to work were doused when the drivers refused to comply. Dozens of truck drivers gathered in front of the Transport and Infrastructure Ministry in Athens yesterday morning to demand a meeting with government officials. Some protesters briefly scuffled with riot police, leading to tear gas being fired. Representatives of various truckers' unions later secured a meeting with Transport Minister Dimitris Reppas. However, after almost five hours of talks, the two sides were unable to reach any compromise. The government insists that it will proceed with the liberalization of their sector but said that it would be willing to discuss various tax breaks and adjustments to the drivers' pensions. The truckers, however, are adamant that the government must drop its insistence on passing the current bill and instead draw up new legislation after extensive consultation with the drivers. Members of the federation of the trucking unions are due to meet at noon today to decide what to do next. It seems likely that they will choose to continue their protests. The government had hoped that by issuing the civil mobilization order on Wednesday, it would convince the protesters to end their strike, which has led to almost all of Greece's gas stations running out of fuel. However, many drivers appeared determined yesterday to ignore the government's instructions and risk being put in jail and having their vehicles seized. The civil mobilization order means that strikers are served with papers calling them up to the army and forcing them to return to work. Authorities began the process of delivering these documents to some 35,000 registered drivers. In Attica, 3,200 call-up papers were handed over to police, who are responsible for delivering them. By last night, only 224 had been delivered. In Thessaloniki, the prefecture did not prepare any call-up papers. The continuation of the strike meant that there were fuel deliveries to only 10 percent of gas stations in Attica and it is still not clear when customers will be able to fill up their vehicles without having to wait in long queues.

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