Taxis return to work, for now

Taxis returned to the streets of Athens and other major cities Friday after unionists voted to end 19 days of strike action, which has paralyzed services and undermined the crucial tourism sector, until the details of the planned deregulation of their profession are made clear later this month.

Following several hours of often fiery debate, unionists took a majority decision to suspend their strike until September 5. Of those who voted, 13 were in favor of ending the action and six against.

Unionists representing taxi drivers in the northern city of Thessaloniki, the western port of Patra and Iraklio on Crete originally had vehemently opposed returning to work, despite suffering severe financial losses as a result of their action, but they were eventually talked round by the head of Attica?s taxi drivers? union, Thymios Lyberopoulos, who reassured them that continuing the strike would be ?disastrous? for the sector and indicated that a withdrawal would take the form of a temporary truce rather than an unconditional ceasefire.

On Thursday, cabbies had been offered guarantees by regional governors that no more new taxi licenses would be issued until the government submits its draft law toward the end of this month. The aim is for the draft to subsequently be discussed by unionists and government officials.

Unionists made it clear that they may call new strike action in September if they object to the content of the government?s bill or if talks fail to establish any common ground.

Transport Minister Yiannis Ragousis has emphasized that he favors total liberalization of their profession but has yet to give details of his plans. Taxi drivers want the number of licenses to be limited according to the population of each city.