Greek truck drivers blocked hundreds of tonnes of freight from being loaded and unloaded to the Greek islands at the country’s largest port on Friday, in a continuing showdown with the government’s new law liberalising their profession.
Hundreds of truckers blocked around 200 freight vehicles from ships docked at the port of Pireaus, vowing to continue with the second week of a work stoppage in protest at reforms opening up their sector to competition that were voted into law on Wednesday.
More than 5,000 freight containers were left stuck at the port.
Reports said riot police and coast guard officials were deployed at the port in an attempt to prevent strikers from blocking the vehicles leaving the area.
Unions made the decision to extend the strike, which has blocked traffic on major highways and caused food and medication shortages in northern Greece and on many of the country’s islands, after refusing tax and pension benefits offered by the government.
“If this strike continues there will be a dangerous shortage of food to the islands,” said the Vice—President of Passenger Ships Union Michalis Sakelis.
Hundreds of trucks have been parked on highways and roads in the capital, Athens, since September 13 to protest plans to open up their profession to competition, along with other professional groups such as pharmacists and civil engineers.
Road freight remained one of the most closed professions in Greece, with jobs protected by fixed fees and rates and strict licensing rules.
The new law will reduce freight prices by issuing new licences for the first time in 40 years at a fraction of the company start—up costs.
Truck drivers, who also blocked the country’s roads for six days in July to protest against the new legislation, argue the new rules will cause thousands who have borrowed money to buy a truck licence to go bankrupt.
Unions say many drivers have paid between 200,000 and 400,000 euros (268,000 and 536,000 dollars) to buy licenses which were now worth almost nothing under the new legislation.
Greece has promised to reform its labour market as part of austerity measures agreed in exchange for a 110—billion—euro emergency funding package to avoid default from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.
The country’s civil servants union ADEDY called a 24—hour strike on October 7 and workers at Greece’s loss—making state railway will hold two five—hour strikes on Wednesday and Thursday to protest government plans to cut their salaries and open the sector up to private competition.