Truck drivers return to work

Striking truck drivers called off their weeklong action yesterday and said that they would enter talks with the government aimed at resolving the deep rift over the liberalization of their sector. The decision, announced late yesterday afternoon, prompted hopes that all gas stations around the country would be in a position to serve customers today and that the delivery of products to supermarkets and other stores would resume straight away. Following a marathon meeting of the various unions representing the truck drivers, their representatives emerged to tell reporters that the strike, which began last Monday, was being called off. However, the president of the Confederation of Greek Truck Drivers, Giorgos Tzortzatos, said that the government, and Transport Minister Dimitris Reppas in particular, had to live up to the «commitments» they had made to the drivers. Tzortzatos did not elaborate but sources said that the government offered to withdraw the civil mobilization order issued last week, which could have led noncompliant truckers being arrested, in return for the strike being called off. Sources added that the government has made it clear to the drivers that it will not negotiate a 2013 deadline for opening up their profession so that the number of licenses issued is no longer restricted. But Reppas also informed them that he would be willing to talk about the possibility of tax breaks, adjustments to their social security benefits and the possibility of drivers being able to get business development loans at special rates. The draft law on liberalizing the road freight sector is due to be submitted next month and Reppas said that he is willing to hold talks with the truckers regarding these changes prior to their submission, on the condition that they do not call another strike. The truck drivers’ protest had caused a severe shortage of fuel but this was gradually eased over the weekend with the help of army vehicles. It was expected that most gas stations would have fuel by this morning.