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Updated: September 22, 2010 18:34 IST

Striking truck drivers block roads in Greek capital again

DPA
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Shipping containers are seen lined up in the port of Thessaloniki in northern Greece on Tuesday. Photo: AP.
Shipping containers are seen lined up in the port of Thessaloniki in northern Greece on Tuesday. Photo: AP.

Striking Greek truck drivers blocked two main roads leading to the capital Athens on Wednesday and clashed with riot police in front of parliament, in fresh protests against plans to liberalise their profession.

Riot police fired teargas at hundreds of the drivers after they tried to break—through a police cordon leading to the front steps of the country’s parliament, hurling bottles, stones and wooden sticks.

Hundreds of trucks have been parked along highways and busy Athens roads 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 remains one of the most closed professions in Greece, which have jobs protected by fixed fees and rates and strict licensing rules.

Truckers drove many of their vehicles through central Athens, honking their horns in protest, while others blocked Athens’ main roads and highways after parliament voted to scrap the system involving licenses which are worth hundreds of thousands of euros.

Unions representing the truckers said they would increase their action ahead of a scheduled vote in parliament later on Wednesday on the new law.

The new law is expected to be passed easily as the Socialists, under the leadership of Prime Minister George Papandreou hold a comfortable majority in parliament.

Truck drivers, which had blocked the country 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 license to go bankrupt.

But the ruling Socialists are determined the go ahead with the plan, required by the European Union and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

While fuel truck drivers have joined the strike there have been no reports of major problems with fuel supplies. Supplies of other goods have been affected as stores on the Aegean islands and in other parts of the country run low on basic food supplies.

Greece has promised to reform its labour market as part of austerity measures agreed in exchange for a 110—billion—euro (134—billion —dollar) emergency funding package to avoid default from the European Union and the IMF.

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 to private competition.

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