NEWS

Cabbies continue their strike despite pledges

Protesting taxi drivers said on Wednesday that they would push on with a second week of strike action despite reassurances by Prime Minister George Papandreou that proposals from unionists regarding planned reforms to liberalize their sector would be taken into account.

In a speech before his Socialist party?s parliamentary group, the premier belatedly backed the position of Transport Minister Yiannis Ragousis, saying that liberalization would go ahead ?subject to certain rules.?

But Papandreou also reached out to protesting cabbies, whose action has created rifts within ruling PASOK, saying the government was open to any proposal aimed at upgrading the services of the sector.

Stressing that the government had not shifted its stance on reforms aimed at opening the profession of taxi drivers to competition, Papandreou said authorities welcomed proposals as part of dialogue about the reforms but he also called on the cabbies, whose recent protests have blocked ports, airports and roads, to show sensitivity concerning the implications of such actions on the crucial tourism sector.

Efthymios Lyberopoulos, the head of the Attica taxi drivers? union known by its acronym SATA, welcomed the premier?s statement, noting that it acknowledged his union?s position, but he said protest action would continue as union members remain frustrated. ?I just hope to God that the protests do not turn violent,? he added.