Taxi drivers block port of Piraeus [UPDATE]

Around 2,000 stiking taxi drivers gathered at the port of Piraeus, at the cruise ship terminal, on Thursday morning in a continued protest against the government?s plans to open up their sector to competition.

A few hours after the protest, Transport Minister Yiannis Ragousis, said he would meet union representatives at 11 a.m. on Friday. Ragousis is also to meet representatives from tour operators and travel agencies to hear their grievances about the negative impact on tourism of the taxi drivers’ action.

Cabbies set up crowd barriers at the port of Piraeus early Thursday in anticipation of the scheduled arrival of five cruise ships, according to police who added that unidentified protesters had thrown oil onto Hatzikyriakou Street, the main thoroughfare which connects the port of Piraeus to the city, in an apparent to stop vehicles from leaving the port.

Police said that 20 out of some 35 tourist coaches at the port managed to depart, following a delay of just over an hour, noting that sawdust had been scattered over the oil to enable other vehicles to follow suit.

A large group of protesters from Piraeus made their way to the offices of Skai and Kathimerini in Neo Faliro and pelted the building with stones, pieces of wood and other objects before police arrived and dispersed them.

There were protests in Crete too. Cabbies blocked two tax offices in the port of Irakleio. In Thessaloniki meanwhile, taxi drivers staged protests outside the offices of local MPs.

Cabbies have scaled back their protests since last week when they caused transport chaos by blocking airports, ports and roads but they are continuing with a second week of strike action despite calls by authorities for dialogue.

On Wednesday Prime Minister George Papandreou reached out to protesters, saying the government welcomed proposals as part of dialogue about the reforms but he also called on cabbies to show sensitivity concerning the implications of their protest action on the crucial tourism sector.

Efthymios Lyberopoulos, the head of the Attica taxi drivers? union, welcomed the premier?s comments but he said protest action would continue as union members remain frustrated.

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