>Truck Drivers defiant despite conscription orders in Greece Lorry-drivers continue their strike, clash with riot police in Thessaloniki

Posted on July 30, 2010



Greek truckers’ strike bites harder 30/7

The latest round of talks this morning between leaders of Greece’s truck drivers associations and the government failed to find common ground and so the industrial action which is likely to see the country ground to a halt in the next few days is set to continue.

The dispute was the result of attempts by Athens to liberalise Greece’s transport market by opening up the trucking profession to everyone with a heavy goods licence and so doing away with the existing permit system which has meant that like taxis, only those registered can operate.

On the one hand the opening up the profession is part of the IMF/EU/ECB process of making Greek products more competetive by reducing transport costs however, drivers associations argue that the sudden implementation of the system means that many of their members stand to lose hundreds of thousands of euros spent obtaining an operating licence.

Instead of petering out strike actions are set to escalate as Greek international truck drivers associations are also preparing to join the strike so threatening imports and exports to other EU countries.

The Greek media has been speculating on whether the government will be forced to bring in the army to make sure the country does not run out of fuel and other basic goods.

Truck drivers carrying fuel stand their ground and continue their strike against the austerity measures despite the government calling a civil conscription on them

The fuel carrying truck drivers strike which started on Monday in response to a special “reform”, part and parcel of the austerity measures, that will see individual ownership abolished and replaced by large firms, has been the first strike crisis facing the greek government after the signing of the EU-IMF structural adjustment agreement. As a result of the strike at the moment of writing all but a few gas stations across the country stand dry and shut, with serious problems caused in boat and bus transport as well as in individual car transport at the peak of the summer exodus from the cities. The strike is believed to be hampering the tourist industry which has reported a virtual freeze on reservations from abroad.
The government’s response to the strike has been to call the truck drivers for dialogue on the condition they stop the strike. The truck drivers refusal to attend such onerous negotiations led yesterday evening the PM to announce a civil conscription of the drivers and their trucks, an authoritarian administrative measure equivalent to forced labour in pain of prison. The truck drivers response has been defiant: last night after the announcement of civil conscription drivers pulled their trucks to blockade the oil refineries of Thessaloniki and Aspropyrgos (Athens), while at the moment of writing a demo outside the Ministry of Transport is forming in protest to the authoritarian administrative decision. Faced with resistance the government has not yet used force to force conscription with truck-driver reps announcing: “We continue. Let them take us to prison. We have nothing to more to lose. If the government thinks that after two days of strike it can move to such measures instead choosing dialogue, it carries all responsibility” .
The response of the Left to the crisis has been bitter. The KKE (Communist Party) asked in Parliament if the government intends to reopen exile-island concentration camps for dissidents, while the Radical Left Coalition has called the conscription a “July coup d’ etat” and the government policy “colonialist”. Civil conscription of workers has occurred again under the Republic at least three times, in 1979 (bank workers), 1986 (airspace control officers) and 2006 (dock-workers).

Jul 29 2010 13:40

Update: The truck driver demo outside the Ministry of Transport in Athens was attacked earlier today by riot police forces shooting tear gas against the protesters. According to mainstream news the lack of fuel has already led to problems of delivering supplies to supermarkets across the country. The government is yet to implement civil conscription which could really derail the situation. According to the news at the moment less than 5 gas stations in greater Athens hold fuel.
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