Greek taxi drivers vow to continue strike

July 30th, 2011 - 2:12 am ICT by BNO News  

ATHENS (BNO NEWS) — Greece’s taxi drivers vowed on Friday to continue with their strike after a meeting with Transport Minister Yiannis Ragousis failed to break the deadlock, the Kathimerini newspaper reported.

Efthymios Lyberopoulos, the head of the Attica taxi drivers’ union, said the taxi drivers will continue with the strike against the recent liberalization of their sector after Ragousis fell short of making any specific commitments. The transport ministry said in a statement issued after the meeting that the deregulation of the sector would be carried out as planned.

The meeting took place following an intervention by Prime Minister George Papandreou on Thursday. The strike, now in its second week, has damaged Greece’s tourism since protesters have been blocking ports, airports and roads.

Culture Minister Pavlos Geroulanos on Thursday warned against “turning tourism into a battleground” after about 2,000 taxi drivers demonstrated at the port of Piraeus, preventing coaches carrying cruise passengers from leaving for tours.

Ragousis announced a total liberalization of taxis just weeks after his predecessor, Dimitris Reppas, had announced a deregulation plan that would have placed a limit on the number of taxi licenses that would be issued.

Unionists representing taxi drivers around the country claim that relaxing limitations for entering the profession will result in an overabundance of drivers, putting a strain on a business already suffering from the economic crisis. They also say that the existing 300,000 taxis that are in circulation in the country are more than adequate to meet the public’s needs.

The recent liberalization is part of the country’s ongoing austerity reforms, which included tax hikes, wide-ranging reforms and accelerated privatizations. The approval of the program was fundamental for securing a new European Union bailout agreement.

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