Truckers dig in heels over reforms

Protesting truck drivers yesterday kept their vehicles parked alongside major highways on the outskirts of Athens, threatening to press on with their protest action after a draft bill foreseeing the opening up of their sector to competition was approved by a parliamentary committee. The legislation is to be submitted to Parliament’s plenary session early next week in order to be voted into law. Unionists representing the truckers, who had joined a debate on the bill in Parliament earlier in the week, expressed their disappointment with the Transport Ministry’s refusal to grant them concessions and threatened to continue with their action. As the provisions of the draft bill were discussed in Parliament, long lines of parked trucks caused traffic chaos on the Athens-Corinth national road at Haidari, Elefsina and at other junctions. A large police presence remained on standby to block truckers from driving their vehicles into central Athens in a bid to highlight their grievances. The protesters had attempted to advance to the city center several times earlier in the week but were stopped each time by police. Unionists expressed disappointment after their talks with government officials collapsed and said they would continue their action indefinitely until they are offered some concessions. Transport Minister Dimitris Reppas remained unmoved. He said the truckers’ calls for the reforms to be introduced five years from now rather than three, as the bill foresees, were not workable and he appealed to unionists to «look forward to a new, modernized European system rather than struggling to perpetuate an outdated one.» «Some people are doing all they can to preserve the existing anachronistic regime when all other European countries pushed through crucial reforms much earlier,» Reppas said.

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