NEWS

Taxi drivers up the ante on reforms

Thousands of taxi drivers are expected to rally outside Parliament on Tuesday in a protest against the government?s plans to liberalize their sector, just a few hours after authorities appeared to backtrack on the reforms.

Transport Minister Yiannis Ragousis, who is overseeing the reform of the taxi drivers? sector, did not comment on Monday but government spokesman Ilias Mossialos spoke on his behalf, saying that the minister would approach unionists in due course ?with proposals that would form the basis for negotiations.?

The move appeared to return to an original proposal by Ragousis?s predecessor, Dimitris Reppas, for a restricted liberalization of the profession. Unionists representing taxi drivers had appeared willing to accept Reppas?s bill.

Members of unions from across the country are to converge outside Parliament Tuesday to push for some of their privileges to be preserved.

On Monday cabbies appeared to scale back their action, briefly blocking the Rio-Antirio bridge but not taking over any toll stations as they have done in recent weeks. Protesters also took over the entrance to the Acropolis Museum, allowing tourists to visit for free.

Reacting to the action yesterday, Leandros Rakintzis, the general inspector of public administration, asked the ministries of Transport and Tourism to calculate the amount of state income that has been lost due to protesters? occupation of toll stations and ticket booths at ancient sites.

In a related development, European Commission spokeswoman Amelia Torres insisted that the full liberalization of the Greek taxi drivers? sector would boost competitiveness and create jobs but she noted too that it forms part of the pledges that Greece has made to its foreign creditors.