Gasoline trickling in

Gasoline supplies slowly started to reach outlets across the country yesterday as striking truck drivers are due to meet this morning to decide whether they will extend their eight-day protest. Some 200 trucks were yesterday dispatched to supply gas stations across the country, with half going to Athens, but fuel quickly ran out as drivers lined up for hundreds of meters in order to fill up their tanks. «In less than two hours, we served about 250 cars,» said the owner of one gas station in central Athens. Another owner said he sold 6,000 euros’ worth of fuel in three hours. Under normal circumstances, 18 trading hours would be necessary to generate about 1,000 euros in sales, he added. Truck drivers have been on strike since last week to press demands for a 13 percent increase to their state-regulated charges in order to cover costs in the wake of rising gasoline prices. Other demands include the adjustment of penalties applicable to drivers found violating safety and trading regulations. The government has so far agreed to a 5 percent rise and has promised to examine other, pension-related demands. «We have agreed to work toward a fairer solution (for pensions) based on a new financial study,» Employment Minister Fani Palli-Petralia said. Later in the day, drivers also met with Deputy Finance Minister Antonis Bezas but refused to give any indications about whether they will today decide to return to work. On Friday, the Transport Ministry gave in to some driver demands by allowing them to travel on national highways for more hours. The protest action is also beginning to have an impact on fresh fruit supplies as farmers are unable to transport their produce to customers. Although open air markets in the country’s largest cities are not yet expected to suffer any supply shortages, industry sources said some problems may arise in smaller towns and cities. PASOK leader George Papandreou called on the drivers to return to work and for the government to solve the problem via dialogue rather than what he described as «unilateral» decision-making.