Greek Hauliers Defy Emergency Order

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Hundreds of striking lorry drivers and hauliers clashed with Greek police in Athens, all day yesterday.

Truckers and their surporters have been lining the highways since Monday to protest against plans to open the sector to competition, as part of the austerity measures and a key ‘reform’ in an EU/IMF package.

The strike, now in its fourth day, has paralysed Greece, depriving petrol stations of fuel. The drivers are standing firm, refusing to obey an emergency government order to end the crippling action.

They are demanding compensation for the reforms aimed at liberalising the freight sector. The striking drivers say the new license charges are unfair – well below the start-up fees of up to 300,000 euros (£250,000) that existing operators had to pay.

Police attempted to hand out papers to the drivers telling them their lorries were being requisitioned, but failed because the drivers had left their lorries.

Queues formed outside the few garages that still had petrol. Shortages of supplies have meant some workers being laid off at factories.

The truckers reiterate that opening the freight sector to competition by reducing new license charges is unfair to existing operators who have already paid high start-up fees running up to $390,000 ‘The state sold us these licenses, so the state should compensate us,’ George Tsamos, the head of the truckers’ union, said.

The drivers say they will not directly defy the emergency order, but will continue their protest with various forms of disobedience.