Farmers up roadblocks to protest pension plan

Farmers up roadblocks to protest pension plan

Farmers have stepped up their protests against the government’s plans for pension reform, increasing the number of blockades on national roads with hundreds of tractors converging at key junctions and disrupting traffic.

Protests are expected to intensify on Thursday at a farmers’ rally in Thessaloniki which has been planned to coincide with a visit to the northern port by Agricultural Development and Food Minister Vangelis Apostolou.

The minister is due in the city for the annual Agrotica farming exhibition but is under increasing pressure to meet with farmers and discuss their demands for concessions to the pension proposals.

Farmers on Wednesday maintained blockades at key junctions on the national road network.

Road access between the Peloponnese, Western Greece and Attica was seriously disrupted due to two blockades on the Athens-Corinth national highway.

Some 600 tractors were parked at the Derveni and Vasilika junctions in Thessaloniki with more than 700 blocking another four junctions in Halkidiki. More than 800 tractors were positioned at the Malgara tollgates, near Thessaloniki, and another 700 in the region of Pieria.

Producers have said they will lift the blockades from time to time to allow some traffic to pass but have threatened to keep them in place if the government does not yield to their demands on pensions, a move that could paralyze transport.

The Promachonas crossing on the country’s border with Bulgaria remained closed on Wednesday night with no word about when it might open, fueling concerns about cross-border transport and deliveries.

Protests from other sectors against the government’s pension plans also continued, causing widespread disruption.

Ferries were moored in ports and are to remain at anchor today as seamen hold a 48-hour strike. Notaries walked off the job, and are to remain on strike on Thursday, joining the action called by lawyers and court officials.

Employees of the Social Security Foundation (IKA), the country’s largest pension fund, are also set to walk off the job today while members of the union representing local authority employees are planning to occupy city halls across the country to highlight their opposition to pension reform.

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