Truck owners back down

Protesting truck owners yesterday called off a three-week strike that has crippled domestic trade and exports following long negotiations between unionists and government officials which started on Thursday night and continued into the early hours of Friday morning. The decision came a few hours after the government voted through Parliament a new law foreseeing the revocation of operating licenses or jail terms for truck owners who persisted with strike action. The heads of the nine main truck owners’ unions reached a consensus with Regional Development and Competitiveness Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis, who reportedly promised them that a new law aimed at boosting growth would provide details of subsidies for certain services offered by logistics firms. A small group of truckers’ unions stood their ground, objecting to the compromises offered by the government. But some key members of this splinter movement were said to be reconsidering their stance. The persistent opposition of the minority was clear on the streets outside Athens yesterday. According to police, 730 trucks were parked at key junctions outside the capital in the early hours of the morning. The most serious damage caused by the truckers’ action however is in the trade sector. Twenty days of action has resulted in an estimated 1.5 billion euros in losses to businesses. Representatives of export firms claimed yesterday that the truckers’ action has been costing them 48 million euros a day. According to the Panhellenic Exporters Association (PSE), the greatest blow has been to the country’s image as seen by foreign clients. The PSE estimates that it will take at least a year until exports are back to normal. «The greatest loss has been to the credibility of Greek businesses,» Christina Sakellaridi, the PSE president, told a press conference. «Our foreign customers are not going to sit looking at their empty shelves and wait for us to supply them with goods,» said Sakellaridi, adding that several Greek firms had already seen orders from foreign customers canceled and contracts terminated.

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