Truckers and traders fail to agree

Unionists representing truck owners yesterday failed to reach a compromise with traders who have suffered millions of euros in losses due to the truckers’ work stoppage, as an increasingly acute shortage of goods began to cause serious problems in various business sectors. The heads of the unions representing truck owners and fuel truck drivers decided to meet again this afternoon to decide on their course of action. Meanwhile, the impact of the truckers’ action – which has entered its third week – is being more keenly felt by businesses. Two of the country’s three biggest fish farms have suspended operations due to a shortage of fish feed. Basic goods are in short supply in supermarkets, particularly on the islands. Textile companies also have reported problems due to a lack of raw materials and their inability to deliver finished goods to businesses. Over the weekend, the truck drivers had indicated that they might suspend their protest action for a week to allow deliveries to resume so goods could be supplied to stores and thousands of containers full of goods building up at the country’s ports could be collected. But talks with Vassilis Korkidis, the head of the National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce, and other trade sector representatives broke down amid speculation of a rift among the unionists. The head of the truck owners’ union, Giorgos Tzortzatos, who has been leading the negotiations, had insisted on a meeting with Prime Minister George Papandreou. Government sources yesterday ruled out the possibility of Papandreou meeting with the truck drivers, who want the government to make further concessions. As unionists argued about what to do next, hundreds of truckers kept their vehicles parked in long lines along major highways on the outskirts of Athens and Thessaloniki. At the Metamorphosi junction in northern Athens, scuffles broke out between truck drivers and police. A 65-year-old trucker who allegedly bit a senior police officer who had tried to restrain him was detained. Earlier in the day, a small group of protesters attempted to obstruct 20 trucks from boarding ferries at Keratsini, near Piraeus. Police used tear gas to disperse the protesting truck drivers and one person was arrested.

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