NEWS

Truck drivers defy order to end their strike

The government yesterday enlisted the help of the army in a bid to tackle the fallout from a five-day strike by truck drivers, dispatching military trucks to help alleviate nationwide fuel shortages. «The armed forces, with their own means, are already guaranteeing the supply of critical sectors such as airports, electricity plants and hospitals,» said a statement issued after an emergency Cabinet meeting. The statement added that navy landing craft «will also contribute if necessary.» Earlier, representatives of truck drivers’ unions from around the country decided to press on with their strike action, which entered its fifth day yesterday, following a long and tense meeting. According to sources, the president of the Confederation of Greek Truck Drivers, Giorgos Tzortzatos, called on protesters to show understanding to fellow citizens. «They must consider the difficulties their actions have caused for society at large and the difficult economic conditions that are currently prevailing in Greece,» Tzortzatos was quoted as saying. Nevertheless, the truckers ultimately decided not to back down. «We will continue our strike in a dynamic way,» Tzortzatos told reporters. In the early evening, hundreds of protesters staged a peaceful march to Parliament where they delivered a petition with their demands. The truckers want the government to revoke reforms to liberalize their sector by reducing license charges which, they say, is unfair to existing operators. Transport Minister Dimitris Reppas, emerging from an emergency Cabinet meeting yesterday, appeared just as intransigent, insisting that the government would follow through with a mobilization order announced on Wednesday and force the truckers back to work. «The reform plan will go ahead,» said Reppas, whose talks with unionists collapsed on Thursday. «Those who have a responsibility to society should assume it or they will be the ones to blame for whatever follows,» Reppas said. «We exhausted every limit of good faith,» he added. The impact of the truckers’ action on Greeks and tourists was evident yesterday. Motorists experienced problems as many gas stations remained without fuel. The problems were most acute in northern Greece. In Thessaloniki yesterday evening, riot police clashed with truck drivers outside a refinery. The protesters had been trying to stop a truck from leaving the establishment.