Truckers keep up pressure as talks collapse

Truck drivers protesting plans to open up their sector to competition are today expected to keep their trucks parked alongside major highways in Athens and other cities for the third day in a row after talks between union representatives and government officials broke down yesterday. The truck drivers – who are calling their action a «work stoppage» rather than a strike after similar action at the end of July was declared illegal – are today expected to visit Parliament, where a draft bill foreseeing the liberalization of their sector is to be debated. There are fears that some protesters might try to drive their trucks into central Athens to highlight their grievances, as they attempted to do on Monday before being blocked by police. Officers are on standby again today to keep the truckers out of the center of the capital. There were more long lines outside gas stations yesterday as motorists sought to fill up on gasoline in case supplies run dry, as they did in July when the truckers’ extended action froze deliveries of fuel and other goods. This rush for fuel, which began on Monday, sparked profiteering among some gas station owners, which prompted the government to announce a ceiling on gasoline prices. Reacting to this decision yesterday, gas station owners threatened to strike. Their warning prompted government officials to announce that they would consider reviewing the ceiling – of 1.47 euros per liter for unleaded gasoline. The head of the union representing fuel trucks, Giorgos Tsamos, stressed yesterday that members’ action would not affect fuel supplies as it had in July as the country’s gas stations are being supplied by trucks belonging to oil companies. During their protest in July, the truckers had prevented the private vehicles from supplying gas stations. To call off their action, truckers originally had demanded nothing less than the revocation of the government’s draft bill for the liberalization of their sector. When the government insisted again yesterday that this was not an option, the truckers asked for the changes to be introduced over five years rather than three years as the current bill foresees. This was also rejected out of hand by Transport Minister Dimitris Reppas.

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