NEWS

Cabbies continue action, crucial meeting on Monday

Greek taxi drivers continued their industrial action on Friday, adding to the frustration of commuters, tourists and motorists. The cabbies’ controversial tactics, which have included the blocking of airports, harbors and key highways, on Friday triggered the intervention of the country?s Supreme Court prosecutor.

In what seemed to be a response to burgeoning criticism of their hardline action, striking cabbies on Friday made a tactical shift, occupying tollgates at Elefsina, Afidnes, Malgara and other parts of the national road network and allowing motorists to pass through for free.

Taxi drivers on Crete, who earlier this week blocked Iraklio Airport and port, also scaled down their protests, holding a march through the city center instead.

Strikers periodically closed down two border crossings with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and took over archaeological site ticket offices in other parts of the country, letting visitors through for free.

Greek cabbies, who began their strike on Monday, oppose the government’s liberalization law that foresees no cap on the number of taxi licenses that can be issued. The deregulation law, which was controversially revised by new Transport Minister Yiannis Ragousis, is part of an austerity package demanded by Greece’s international creditors.

The taxi-driving profession is one of several that have seen barriers to entry being removed. Architects, pharmacists, lawyers and notaries will also be affected by the deregulation drive.

Acting on a call from the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (SETE), Supreme Court prosecutor Yiannis Tentes on Friday ordered police to remove the license plates of any taxis obstructing transportation, arrest the drivers on the spot and prepare charges against them.

Earlier this week, angry cabbies clashed with police outside the Transport Ministry following fruitless talks with Ragousis.

Efthymios Lyberopoulos, the head of the taxi drivers? union, on Friday demanded a meeting with the prime minister ?so we can remove any misunderstandings and we can all get back to our jobs.?

Meanwhile, following a meeting with unionists, Dimitris Asimakopoulos of the General Confederation of Greek Small Businesses and Traders (GSEVEE) on Friday backed the cabbies’ demands, slamming the government’s backpedaling. However, Asimakopoulos urged protesters to refrain from extreme forms of action because they risk alienating other sectors.

Taxi unionists are due to meet on Monday to decide whether to continue their action.

Taxi drivers have come under fire for hurting tourism at a very crucial time for the local economy.

Tourism makes up about 16 percent of Greece’s gross domestic product and is key for the near-bankrupt country?s economic recovery.