NEWS

Truck strike turning ugly

The ongoing strike by truck owners, which showed no sign of ending yesterday, took on another dimension when drivers who are not taking part in the action claimed to have been shot at north of Athens and the government in Sofia lodged an official complaint about alleged attacks on several Bulgarian drivers. Members of truck owners’ unions were meeting until late yesterday to decide whether to continue with their action or whether to halt it temporarily or even permanently. Traders have pleaded with the unionists to at least call off the protest for a week to allow stores to be restocked with goods. The prolonged strike, which is in its third week, has led to a heightening of tension between truckers who have joined the protest and those who are defying the unionist line. In the most extreme case, it appears that a convoy of 25 trucks that was approaching Athens with a police escort was fired upon yesterday. According to authorities, the trucks stopped in Malakasa on the Athens-Lamia national road, some 50 kilometers from the capital, after some drivers heard gunshots. An inspection of the vehicles revealed that two of the trucks contained bullet holes. Nobody was injured but public prosecutor Eleni Raikou issued charges of attempted murder against persons unknown. It also appears that a number of Bulgarian drivers who have either crossed into Greece with their vehicles or who have been driving trucks for Greek road freight companies that are defying the strike have come under attack. In a complaint from the Bulgarian Transport Ministry to the Greek government, it was claimed that drivers have been attacked at the ports of Piraeus and Igoumenitsa and in some parts of Athens. A 41-year-old Greek man was arrested in Kavala, northern Greece, yesterday on suspicion of being one of four or five local drivers who used their cars to chase a Bulgarian truck which they then forced to stop so they could attack the driver. The suspect was charged with causing bodily harm and damaging private property. The truck owners are on strike to protest the passing of a law liberalizing their sector and are demanding further concessions from the government, which has already made favorable tax and pension adjustments.