A six-day trucker strike continued on Saturday in Greece, creating severe fuel shortages during the peak of tourist season and striking another blow to Greece's recession-hit economy.
AFP - Greeks and foreign visitors alike faced a fuel stalemate on Saturday from a six-day trucker strike that has severely disrupted gasoline supplies at the peak of the busy tourist season.
Despite a requisition order by the government which also mobilised military vehicles to alleviate the shortage only a small percentage of petrol stations were being resupplied in many parts of the country, officials said.
A broad range of businesses from tourism car rentals to fruit growers have been badly hit by the protest which began on Sunday against plans by the government to liberalise the tightly-controlled freight sector.
But authorities warn that the greatest damage has been caused to the vital tourism industry which accounts for nearly a fifth of the recession-hit Greek economy, with thousands of travellers stranded by the protest and booking cancellations mounting.
"The period to August 15 is the heart of the tourism season and an entire week has now been lost," the head of the Greek trade association Vassilis Korkidis told state television Net.
"Gas stations have dried up," senior gas station unionist Dimitris Makryvelios told the broadcaster. "Nobody is going to risk travelling if the market is not stabilised."
Reports poured in from Greek islands of foreign holidaymakers abandoning their immobilised rented cars while motorists in northern Greece have tried to bypass the deadlock by seeking fuel in neighbouring Bulgaria and Macedonia.
The protest has also badly hit the peach industry, a staple Greek export, with over a dozen canneries shutting down for lack of fuel, the head of Greece's cannery association said.
"The harvest and processing of peaches only lasts a few days and this is peak season for us," association chairman Costas Apostolou told Ta Nea daily.
"This is a disaster," he added, noting that over 35 tonnes of peaches worth around 20 million euros had to be destroyed.
The truckers on Friday decided to maintain their protest, ignoring warnings by the government that strikers who continue to defy the law would be prosecuted and that their operating licenses could be forfeit.
"We will continue (the strike) in dynamic fashion," the head of the Greek truck owners confederation, George Tzortzatos, told reporters after a union meeting.
The truckers say that boosting competition in the freight sector by reducing new licence charges is unfair to existing operators who have already paid high start-up fees running up to 300,000 euros (391,000 dollars).
The plan is part of a reform programme that the Athens government committed to in May in exchange for a 110-billion-euro (143-billion-dollar) loan package from the International Monetary Fund and European Union.
Greece has suffered waves of strikes and protests over the unprecedented budget cuts and reforms the government had to agree to in order to tap the IMF-EU money it desperately needed to avert default on debts close to 300 billion euros.
Date created : 2010-07-31