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Greece turns to military as hauliers refuse to end strike
Published in Saudi Press Agency on 31 - 07 - 2010

Authorities in Greece have called in the army to
help maintain supplies of fuel and food, after a six-day old strike
by haulage driver looked set to continue Saturday, according to dpa.
Airports, electricity plants and hospitals are relying on depleted
fuel stocks, and food supplies have dwindled, after the truckers
disobeyed a government emergency order to return to work, in a
dispute about opening up the closed system of licences for road
freight.
The stoppage has seen many tourists stranded as petrol supplies
ran dry at the peak of the tourism season, as well as ordinary Greeks
stuck without fuel.
To prevent clashes with striking drivers, the armed forces were
accompnied by jeeps and police cars as they worked around the clock
to restock supplies.
Meanwhile fuel companies dispatched their own trucks in an effort
to replenish petrol stations left dry which remained closed on
Saturday.
Truck drivers have ignored an emergency order to return to work
and the strike has depleted petrol station supplies and caused a
severe shortage of fresh food across the country as well as hitting
the vital tourism industry, with many visitors cancelling plans for
vacations in the southern Mediterranean country.
Lorry drivers are protesting against plans to cut licence charges
- part of major reforms required of Greece to boost competition and
one of the conditions of a 110 billion euro bailout package by the
European Union and International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Road freight remains one of Greece's most closed professions with
no new licenses issued for nearly 40 years.
The reforms will mean drivers will no longer be able to sell their
business licences privately - sometimes for as much as 300,000 euros
- greatly devaluing the initial investment they made.
Clashes broke out at an oil refinery in the northern port city of
Thessaloniki between riot police and strikers on Friday as they tried
to prevent a government-controlled fuel truck from leaving the
premises. At least two people were reported injured.
Facing arrest and prosecution unless they return to work, the
drivers say they will continue to defy the emergency civil
mobilization order.
Meanwhile other closed professions, such as taxi drivers, lawyers
and architects, fear they will be next.
Under the terms of the bailout, the European Union and IMF want
Greece to liberalize these professions by September.
Greece's main labour unions have since February staged repeated
strikes against the tough austerity measures.
A hauliers decision to continue their strike came as a team of EU,
IMF and European Central Bank officials are visiting Athens to
monitor progress and decide whether to release the second installment
of the emergency package in September, totalling 9 billion euros.
The ongoing strike is taking place at the height of the busy
tourist season, with many tourists and Greeks themselves left
stranded by the petrol shortages.
-- SPA


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