NEWS

Law to discipline truckers

The government yesterday sent its strongest warning yet to protesting truck owners, whose prolonged work stoppage has paralyzed the delivery of goods, by drafting a law that would lead to the imprisonment of truckers violating a civil mobilization order dictating that they return to work. The bill, which is to be submitted in Parliament today, foresees the suspension or revocation of the operating licenses of truck owners who refuse to respect a civil mobilization order like that issued against them in the summer when they launched a similar strike. Offenders who refuse to comply will face three years in jail, according to the provisions of the bill. Yesterday police did all that the current law allows them, arresting three truckers who allegedly tried to block traffic at key junctions on the national road network outside Athens and Patra. The work stoppage by the truck owners, which is now in its third week, had showed no sign of abating by late yesterday evening, with hundreds of protesters keeping their trucks lined up alongside major highways, snarling traffic. The strike has seriously hampered the delivery of goods and has led to a standoff between truck drivers and traders; the latter have appealed to unionists to suspend the protest – at least temporarily – to allow stores to be restocked with goods and thousands of containers piling up at the country’s ports to be collected. So far the strike has caused some 1.5 billion euros in lost revenues, businesses estimated yesterday. Damages from aborted exports alone are estimated at some 48 million euros a day. Farmers yesterday joined producers and shopkeepers in protesting the truckers’ action, which has resulted in tons of their produce perishing as it waits for collection. On the national highway linking Patra and Pyrgos, further southwest, farmers used their tractors to block the junction at Kato Achaia. The head of the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV), Dimitris Daskalopoulos, struck out at the truckers for persisting with their action despite its disastrous impact on the business world, referring to «privileges that various closed professions have acquired and exploited from a state that functions according to the principles of patron-client relationships.»