NEWS

Truck drivers up the ante as bill vote looms

Truck drivers protesting plans to liberalize their sector kept their vehicles parked along key sections of the national road network yesterday, causing serious traffic disruption, in opposition to the scheduled submission in Parliament today of the controversial draft bill that would open up their profession to competition. Hundreds of trucks remained parked in long lines on the outskirts of Athens, Thessaloniki and other major cities for the eighth day in a row. The longest blockades were at the Haidari and Elefsina junctions and the Corinth tollgates. Riot police officers remained on standby, on orders from the government to stop truckers from heading into the city center. Unionists representing the truckers said they would scale up their action today ahead of a scheduled vote in Parliament tomorrow on reforms that they claim will wreck thousands of livelihoods. Truckers have said that they will try again today to break police blockades and head toward central Athens with their vehicles. A march is due to begin at noon at Omonia Square and is scheduled to culminate outside Parliament, where truckers have said they will stage a sit-down protest. Transport Minister Dimitris Reppas appeared unfazed by the action, telling Skai Television yesterday that the reforms would be implemented as soon as they are voted into law tomorrow. Although fuel-truck drivers have joined the protest action, there had been no reports of major problems with fuel supplies by late last night. Supplies of other goods have been affected, however. On many Aegean islands and in other parts of the country, stores were said to be running low on basic supplies. Meanwhile more than 3,000 containers have accumulated at the country’s main port of Piraeus. «Businesses are being held hostage by the truck drivers,» Vassilis Korkidis, president of the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce, told Skai. According to the Exporters’ Association of Northern Greece (SEVE), companies in the transport and logistics sectors are losing around 5 million euros a day because of the truckers’ action.