Truckers Halted Strike, Time to Talk with the Government


According to Greek truckers they suspended their seven-day strike to enter talks with the government over opening up their closed-shop profession.

The week-long strike caused major interruption in fuel and food deliveries, and has motivated thousands of tourists to postpone their planned visit to Greece.

Truckers' union president Giorgos Tzortzatos told reporters, "In light of the problems created from our strike ... we acted responsibly and decided by a close margin to stop the strike." Furthermore, "We will be behind the wheel again starting 7 a.m. Monday," the truckers' union president assured.

The government's move to expropriate the protesters' vehicles and commanding the army to deliver fuel supplies to airports, power stations, and hospital has caused the strike to wane over the weekend.

Gas stations in Athens and in Greece's second city of Thessaloniki were stocked with fuel, and refineries were staying open 24 hours a day to enable deliveries nationwide, by Sunday Afternoon.

The union's executive met for approximately six hours, last Sunday, as growing numbers of truckers accepted government orders to return to work.

Some deliveries were escorted by police to thwart possible counterblows by adamant strikers, after some returning truckers had reported bullying by their protesting fellow drivers.

Giorgos Petalotis, government spokesman, said the government might repeat the same action if the union called for another strike. "We have an obligation to keep the markets open," he said.

Opening up of the trucking profession to non union members was a non-negotiable plan, according to the government last Sunday. Regardless of the argument made by union truckers who believe the move would destroy their future prospects.

From the years 1950s to 1971 subsequent Greek governments dispensed free truck licenses as a means of providing political favors, no new operating licenses have been issued since. One can avail if old ones are transferred on the open market at stellar prices.

According to the government it would discuss compensating those truckers who paid hundreds of thousands of euros for a license and would see their investments debased.

Greece was provided with euro 110 billion ($143.5 billion) in emergency loans. As part of the agreement, certain closed professions must be opened which is a central demand of the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

There are other professional industries facing such change. This includes pharmacists, taxi drivers, architects, and chartered accountants. According to Prime Minister George Papandreou's anonymous adviser, who was not authorized to speak on this matter, the government will likely introduce legislation in September.